A new anti-whistleblower “Ag-Gag” bill was introduced in the Arkansas legislature last month, marking the fourth attempt by some of the state’s elected officials to try and make reporting wrongdoing in the agricultural industry a punishable offense.
According to the Food Integrity Campaign, the proposed bill HB 1665 is also the most nefarious of the Ag-Gag bills introduced to the Arkansas legislature in recent years because it seeks to gag would-be whistleblowers not just in agriculture, but in other industries as well.
The Food Integrity Campaign writes:
What could make a bill designed to make it illegal to document crimes in industrial agriculture even worse, you may ask? Well, how about a bill that also makes it a crime to document and report crimes such as patient abuse, elder abuse, daycare abuse and even puppy mill abuses! That’s right, this new bill is broader still and puts whistleblowers, and the charities that support them, on the hook for fees and damages – obviously designed as an economic deterrent to do-gooder interlopers.
The fundamental goal of Ag-Gag laws, the Food Integrity Campaign explains, is to “criminalize taking video recordings of factory farms and meat production facilities.” The bills are pushed by “meat industry tycoons” and their “high-powered lobbyists” because they don’t want to pay penalties or suffer a public outcry or tarnished image when animals are shown being tortured or abused or violations that threaten the health and safety of workers are caught on film, the Food Integrity Campaign says.
If the agricultural industry, particularly meat producers, valued safety and ethics as much as they do profits, there would be no need for laws that make it a crime to document violations and other wrongdoing.
Ag-Gag laws have been introduced by legislators beholden to their corporate donors in more than half of the states since 2013. The Food Integrity Campaign notes that most of these proposed laws, however, have fortunately met with a serious backlash. Twenty-five Ag-Gag laws have been killed to date, and the ones that have passed are being challenged in court by whistleblower advocacy groups like the Food Integrity Campaign and the Government Accountability Project.
“People were paying attention,” the Food Integrity Campaign says. “People … who believe that whistleblowers are often in the first, and usually the best, position to stop crimes, waste, fraud, and wrongdoing.”
Source: Food Integrity Campaign