Organic Consumers Association

INDIANA: Protect Your Right to Know About Factory Farms

Last year, concerned citizens like you stopped an “ag-gag” bill that would have prevented journalists, activists and employees from investigating animal cruelty, worker abuses, environmental protection violations and food safety hazards at factory farms.

But now the industry is back at the state legislature with an even harsher bill. Don’t let Indiana legislators criminalize whistleblowers in order to protect factory farms’ profits.

Use this form to tell the state Senate Committee on Corrections and Criminal Law to vote no on SB 101!

More than half of Indiana's 92 counties are home to at least one factory farm, according to the Citizens Action Coalition Education Fund. If you live in one of those counties, near one of those farms, you already know that they are subject to weak and sparsely enforced state regulations.  You and your neighbors are exposed to massive amounts of air and water pollution, with little recourse through your local government to protect yourselves.

How do you find if a factory farm near you is violating already-weak animal welfare, food safety or environmental laws? Sometimes, the only way these violations are exposed is through undercover investigations. Now, your state lawmakers want to outlaw those investigations.

SB 101, introduced by Sen. Holdman (R-Markel), the same senator who authored last year's “ag-gag” bill, would expand state trespass laws to protect agricultural operations and private property rights. Worse yet, the bill would make it a felony to expose factory farm violations and abuses to the public.

With transparency comes accountability. That's why the agricultural industry is seeking to criminalize those who attempt to expose their crimes rather than addressing the litany of violations they've already been found guilty of committing. SB 101 would be used by dishonest employers to intimidate and bully employees from documenting abuses - serving as an effective retaliation tool against any employee who blows the whistle on unethical or illegal activity.

The bill is also unnecessary because current laws against fraud and trespassing already protect honest businesses. Those who are brave enough to blow the whistle on illegal activity on industrial operations aren't "vigilantes" - they should be rewarded, not criminalized.

The Good News: The People are on the Side of Transparency!

In a poll commissioned by The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), 71 percent of Americans support undercover investigative efforts to expose animal abuse on industrial farms and almost two-thirds oppose making such efforts illegal. Fully 94 percent of Americans feel that it is important to have measures in place to ensure that food coming from farm animals is safe for people to eat, and 94 percent agree that animals raised for food on farms deserve to be free from abuse and cruelty.

Don't let Indiana join the growing list of states that want to keep you in the dark about what goes on in factory farms. SB 101 is still in committee, you can help stop it before it goes to the state Senate floor. 

Send your letter today! Ask the state Senate Committee of Corrections and Criminal Law to stop SB 101!

Thank you!

Why ag-gag laws are dangerous to animals, humans and the environment:

o Animal Welfare. Ag-gag laws are a direct threat to animal welfare. We know that animals are often cruelly treated in factory farms and slaughterhouses. Documentation of this treatment not only helps educate the public about farm animal abuse, but also influences industry and government entities to make real changes for farm animals.

o Food Safety. Ag-gag laws threaten our food supply: Various exposés of factory farms and slaughterhouses have revealed the extent to which our meat, eggs and milk are mishandled. Mishandling animal products, including mishandling farm animals while they are alive, invites health risks including salmonella, mad cow disease and other potentially fatal illnesses that may be transmitted to consumers.

o Control over Food Choices. Ag-gag laws are a direct threat to marketplace transparency. At a time when Americans are increasingly invested in knowing more about where their food comes from and how it is made, these laws threaten our ability to control what we bring into our homes and the food we put in our bodies. All Americans should have the right to know the basic conditions under which their food is produced.

o Workers' Rights. This legislation often seeks to criminalize the recording of sounds or images in animal facilities, no matter the content. Factory farms, slaughterhouses and meatpacking facilities are physically and emotionally difficult places to work. Farm investigations have the potential to expose serious worker abuse and other illegal or unethical conduct on the part of employees or supervisors.

o Free Speech. Some ag-gag bills seek not just to criminalize recording, but even the possession and distribution of images recorded on animal facilities-and some seek to criminalize misrepresenting oneself on job applications (which, while possibly an act warranting termination of employment, should generally not be a crime). These provisions pose serious First Amendment threats.

o Environmental Damage. In the United States, 99 percent of food animals are raised in factory farms, where large numbers of animals are housed together, generally in close confinement. Huge amounts of waste are generated, the improper storage and disposal of which threatens our soil and water. While state and federal laws require large farms to minimize their environmental damage, farms have been found flagrantly violating these requirements. Undercover investigations offer an effective way to expose such violations.

Source:
American Society for the Prevetion of Cruelty to Animals: http://www.aspca.org/fight-cruelty/advocacy-center/ag-gag-whistleblower-suppression-legislation/why-ag-gag-laws-are