The Chilling Effect of Ag Gag, a Roar for Tony, and Lolita Making a Splash at Last!

Posted by Stephen Wells, ALDF's Executive Director on April 26, 2013

This Just In…

The Animal Legal Defense Fund had a great week in our fight to protect the lives and advance the interest of animals!

  • On April 24, 2013 the National Marine Fisheries Service found that ALDF & PETA have presented a worthy case in our joint petition to win Lolita protections under the Endangered Species Act like the rest of her pod. Our petition for Lolita, who is confined to the smallest orca tank in North America at the Miami Seaquarium, will now move forward.
  • On April 25, 2013 the Louisiana Court of Appeal ruled in our favor by upholding a lower court ruling in our battle to free Tony the Tiger from a Louisiana truck stop. Read more about our case. It is a victory that brings Tony one step closer to life at a sanctuary, like he deserves.

Great wins for animals this week. Thanks for your support!

The Bad News

Last week, amidst the tragedy in Boston, the country was keeping a keen eye on two states: California and Tennessee. These states were considering “ag gag” laws that could have a disastrous impact on animals, our environment, our workers, the safety of our food, and the ability of law enforcement to do its job.

What is ag gag? In the simplest terms, ag gag bills aim to hide conditions on factory farms by making it illegal to effectively gather information, photos, and video at these facilities. Proponents push these anti-whistleblower laws forward to avoid exposure and potential prosecution or lawsuits. Make no mistake: these corporate-backed laws prevent the prosecution of criminal animal abuse. Instead, they criminalize people who report animal abuse or public health and safety concerns on factory farms. It’s a good deal for corporate factory farms, but a bad deal for everyone else, especially the animals.

Who is behind these ag gag bills? As we discussed in our interview with Will Potter, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is a corporate-funded organization that drafts pro-corporate and anti-consumer model bills for legislators- this secretive group is also behind ag gag bills. On the other hand, groups like the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys and the National District Attorneys Association oppose ag gag laws. They know undercover investigations are absolutely crucial to law enforcement in criminal prosecution. Undercover investigations have exposed serious food safety violations and led to the largest beef recall in US history when 143 million pounds of tainted beef was revealed to be poisoning our children’s lunches in the National School Lunch Program. This would not have been discovered without horrifying undercover video that publically exposed the abuse of cows at the plant–just what ag gag laws hope to prevent.

Thankfully, California’s bill was removed, though it may return soon. California’s bill was aimed at destroying the collection of evidence over time that demonstrates a pattern of abuse or generally abusive conditions.

In the doghouse

Unfortunately, Tennessee’s legislature voted to pass an ag gag bill that would allow agricultural facilities to get away with animal abuse–like the horrifying “soring” of Tennessee horses–which is currently illegal under the U.S. Horse Protection Act. Although corporate lobbyists managed to push the bill through the legislature, the public is becoming increasingly outraged.

Many are blasting Tennessee’s bill as unconstitutional and a violation of the Tennessee Shield Law § 24-1-208, a whistleblower protection law. A chorus of public interest groups, from ALDF to the ACLU and groups like the National Press Photographers Association are calling for Tennessee’s Governor Haslam to veto the bill. It’s truly a question of corporate influence versus public interest. Stay tuned.

These bills “gag” information from reaching the public and plant the seed of terror in those who witness illegal activity–a strategy known legally as “the chilling effect.” Factory farms are already protected by criminal trespass and fraud laws. So what do they have to hide?

Please join us to fight ag gag legislation! You can sign the petition–and learn more about these issues–at our site: ProtectYourFood.org