Indiana’s Ag-Gag Bills Support Agribusiness Lobby

This is an update of the article written in March to include a video produced by Schuman Media Center which further explains Ag-Gag Bills hosted by our friend, Bill Moyers. It should be noted the republican super majority removed the bill shortly after this article, but it’s still floating around the legislature and will most likely be attached to a less public law in the coming months.

Has Indiana’s legislators and new republican super-majority sunk to a new low in Hoosier history with their Big Ag-gag bills – in a single word – yes.

There are many people looking on Indiana legislators who are attempting to suppress citizens and the free press with Ag-Gag bills. This Bill not only harms animals, but it puts all Hoosiers, including our children, in jeopardy by preventing our access to critical information about our food supply.

SB 373 also threatens our constitutional rights by stifling dissemination of information and chipping away at our First Amendment protections.

In fact, according to Ed Sayres with the Huffington Post:

Lawmakers who support Ag-Gag bills do so because they are accommodating the agribusiness lobby, not because it is in the interest of their constituents. In fact, a recent national poll by Lake Research Partners found that 71 percent of Americans support undercover investigative efforts to expose farm animal abuse on industrial farms.

The bottom line with the Bill is the FDA and USDA are revolving doors for Big Ag’s executives. There’s no one out there protecting the consumers. Congress is bought and paid for by Monsanto, Cargill, ADM, Smithfield.

Their goal now is to make criminals out of the only people interested in protecting their friends and neighbors, and our kids, from big business. Does this comfort you?

Cody Carlson from Atlantic Magazine said this about these Ag-gag Bills surfacing in the U.S.:

Driving this trend is a powerful coalition of agribusiness lobbyists and the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council. Their goal is to stave off calls for factory farm reform by silencing whistleblowers and stopping the embarrassing product recalls, plant closures, and criminal convictions that often result.

Instead of our politicians attacking the corporate farms for animal cruelty and dumping their toxic waste in our waterways, they are actually going after those courageous enough to produce the videos exposing the wrongdoers and forcing the government to recall meat produced in those facilities. Where is the invisible hand the free market economists clamor about?

What’s worse, the entire purpose of an independent free press is to hold the public and private sectors accountable and this proposed law eliminates those first amendment rights. Here is fair warning – every Indiana senator and house representative who support these ALEC Bills will have their name enshrined as monied interest puppets versus protecting the constituents they swore to protect.

Last week, the Indiana Director for The Humane Society of the United States, Erin Huang, stood in front of our Indiana legislators and presented the following:

Chairmen and Members of the Committee,

Thank you for the opportunity to address the committee. My name is Erin Huang and I am the Indiana state director for the Humane Society of the United States. I was born & raised in Indiana, and grew up in rural Morgan County, where my grandfather was a hog and cattle farmer. I have lived in Indiana my entire life. I am here today on behalf of HSUS in strong opposition to SB 373, the anti-whistleblower bill.

It comes as no surprise to any of you that every animal welfare organization in this country is against these bills, but it is not just animal groups – it is a coalition of over 50 public interest groups, from First Amendment to food safety groups who oppose anti-whistleblower measures.

This is not a pro-animal bill. Anyone who believes that this is an animal welfare bill has clearly had the wool pulled over their eyes. This is evidenced by the fact that no animal welfare organization supports this bill and not a single Indiana paper has editorialized in favor of this bill. However, let’s look at the papers who have editorialized against Senate Bill 373: The Muncie Star Press, The South Bend Tribune, The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, The Herald Times, The Times Mail, and The Indianapolis Star.

The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette very poignantly wrote, “Businesses including large factory farms, that are operating responsibly, don’t need, nor should they want this bill to pass.”

This quote raises the question – what do those who support this bill have to hide?

Numerous investigations and whistleblowing employees have answered that question. We have documented rampant illegal and unethical activities in these facilities. For example, in 2008, HSUS did an undercover investigation into the Hallmark/Westland plant in Chino, CA, where we documented cows too sick to walk being dragged to slaughter and bound for the federal school lunch program. If not for the undercover investigation, the safety of our food supply could still be in jeopardy.

One accusation made by representatives for industrial agriculture is that these videos have been staged; however, no one testifying in support of this bill has been able to give even one example of an incident being staged.

What we’re talking about here, whether the proponents of bill are willing to admit or not, is the enactment of a law that prevents unethical and illegal activity from being exposed on industrial agricultural operations. Senate Bill 373 will create a safe haven for unethical and illegal activities on industrial farms, create a chilling effect on every employee from exposing unethical behavior, and gives the agricultural industry in this state a black eye.

The eyes of the country are on this legislature and we urge you to do what’s right and vote no on SB 373. The proponents of this bill state that this protects agriculture, but by passing this law you are telling every person in this country that farmers in Indiana have something to hide. Those who have nothing to hide, hide nothing.

The cover photo is courtesy of The Humane Society of the United States (or The HSUS).

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Todd Smekens

Journalist, consultant, publisher, and servant-leader with a passion for truth-seeking. Enjoy motorcycling, meditation, and spending quality time with my daughter and rescue hound. Spiritually-centered first and foremost. Lived in multiple states within the USA and frequent traveler to the mountains.
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