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“Ag-Gag” Legislation Back in Play in Indy

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PHOTO: A hearing will be held today on Senate Bill 101, which could make felons out of whistleblowers exposing unethical or illegal activities on industrial farms. Photo courtesy of Kathleen Schatzmann.
PHOTO: A hearing will be held today on Senate Bill 101, which could make felons out of whistleblowers exposing unethical or illegal activities on industrial farms. Photo courtesy of Kathleen Schatzmann.
January 7, 2014

INDIANAPOLIS - So-called "Ag-gag" legislation is once again on the table at the Indiana State House. A hearing will be held today on Senate Bill 101, which could make felons of whistle-blowers exposing unethical or illegal activities on industrial farms.

According to Matthew Dominguez, policy manager for the Farm Animal Protection Campaign at the Humane Society of the United States, the measure is designed to stop those who otherwise may want to share photos, videos or opinions on how agribusinesses operate and their effect on the treatment of farm animals, and the consequent effect on food, employee, and environmental safety.

"Anyone who consumes animal products should be terrified of ag-gag bills," Dominguez declared. "People have a right to know where their food is coming from, they have a right to know how these animals are being treated. And these ag-gag bills attempt to keep Indianans in the dark about what is happening on these factory farms."

The Humane Society is part of a coalition of civil liberties, public health, environmental, journalism and workers' rights organizations opposed to the measure and will be at today's hearing to testify.

Supporters of the measure say it's important to protect the rights of private property owners. But Dominguez said it's really aimed at punishing those who speak out against bad behaviors and practices, rather than at addressing the problem.

"Undercover investigations over the course of the last decade have exposed egregious animal abuse, food-safety issues and employer and workers' rights issues," he recalled. "They've led to meat recalls, they've led to criminal prosecutions for animal cruelty and they've led to changes in the industry."

The bill was introduced by State Senator Travis Holdman (R-Markle), who introduced a similar measure last year that was defeated. There were similar bills introduced in 10 other states last year, but none passed.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - IN