The Humane Society of the United States runs television ad statewide against bill to ban undercover investigations
In the wake of an investigation that exposed shocking animal cruelty at an Idaho dairy factory farm, the dairy industry is pushing lawmakers to pass a bill (S1298) aimed at criminalizing whistleblowers who expose animal abuse or other misdeeds on agricultural operations. To counter this dangerous effort, the Humane Society of the United States is launching statewide a TV advertisement calling out the dairy industry and its backers for trying to keep the public in the dark about how their food is produced.
In 2012, an investigation by Mercy For Animals led to the arrest of a manager and two other employees at Dry Creek Dairy, owned by Bettencourt Dairies, one of the largest dairies in the nation. Employees were caught on video beating and electrically shocking cows, twisting their tails in order to inflict pain, and dragging a lame cow by her neck with a chain hitched to a tractor.
The cruelty drew nationwide condemnation, but instead of taking meaningful steps to improve animal welfare, the state’s dairy industry is trying to silence its critics. The HSUS’ ad uses footage from the Bettencourt Dairy investigation to show what the agribusiness industry is trying desperately to hide.
Lisa Kauffman, HSUS’s Idaho state director, said: “The Idaho dairy industry’s damaged reputation is only going to be worsened by this crude attempt to silence whistleblowers.”
In 2013, 11 states saw the introduction of similar “ag-gag” bills aimed at covering up animal abuse, unsafe working conditions, and environmental violations on industrial factory farms. Every one of these bills was defeated.
Critics contend that whistleblower suppression bills like S1298 infringe on free speech and the freedom of the press. Those opposing ag-gag bills include a coalition of civil liberties, public health, food safety, environmental, food justice, animal welfare, legal, workers’ rights, journalism, and First Amendment organizations.
Meat industry consultant and animal scientist Temple Grandin said that, “[ag-gag bills are] the stupidest thing that ag ever did.”
Investigations have played a vital role in exposing animal welfare and food safety issues related to industrialized agriculture. For example, in 2008 an HSUS undercover investigation of a slaughter plant in Chino, Calif., revealed horrific animal abuse and resulted in the largest meat recall in U.S. history. Much of the recalled meat had been sold to the National School Lunch Program.
More than 40 newspapers nationwide have editorialized against similar ag-gag bills since the beginning of 2013.