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Doris Lin

Tennessee Governor Vetoes Ag-Gag Bill

By May 14, 2013

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The governor of Tennessee has vetoed the state's ag-gag bill, SB 1248/HB 1191, which would have required that photographs and videos of animal abuse be turned over to law enforcement within 48 hours. In general, "ag-gag laws" are dangerous because they protect the animal abusers and punish whistleblowers who are trying to expose animal cruelty.

Bill Haslam
Gov. Haslam at the 2011 Country Music Awards

To someone who is unfamiliar with the issue, SB 1248/HB 1191 may seem like a good idea - shouldn't animal abuse be reported to law enforcement? But the 48 hour requirement would make it difficult to document a pattern of cruelty that occurs over and over, which would demonstrate a company policy or tolerance for cruelty.

Governor Bill Haslam explains why he vetoed the bill:

"First, the Attorney General says the law is constitutionally suspect. Second, it appears to repeal parts of Tennessee's Shield Law without saying so....Third, there are concerns from some district attorneys that the act actually makes it more difficult to prosecute animal cruelty cases, which would be an unintended consequence."

The American Civil Liberties Union agrees that the law is unconstitutional. Their Tennessee chapter states that SB 1248/HB 1191 "would have unconstitutionally chilled the free speech of citizens and journalists seeking to expose animal cruelty" and " would have criminalized individuals, including journalists, seeking to document and expose animal cruelty, violating their First Amendment rights."

In 2011, The Humane Society of the US documented cruel training practices being used against Tennessee walking horses, including horses being whipped, kicked and shocked in the face. The undercover investigation led to criminal animal cruelty charges.

A 2012 nationwide poll commissioned by the ASPCA, revealed that 71 percent of Americans support undercover investigations by animal welfare organizations to expose animal abuse on industrial farms, and 64 percent oppose making such efforts illegal.

While animal rights advocates condemn cruelty on factory farms, the issue is not cruel treatment but the rights of the animals to be free of human abuse and exploitation. The animal rights position is that we do not have a right to use animals for our own purposes, no matter how well the animals are treated before slaughter. Investigations are important for documenting the cruelty, but the solution is not undercover videos or better treatment. The solution is veganism.

Michael Loccisano / Getty Images


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