“Ag Gag” Bills Die in Florida, Minnesota

Ill-conceived bills that would criminalize photographing on farms fail in two states

Just weeks after the demise of Florida’s “ag gag” legislation, a similar Minnesota bill is now dead, expiring as the legislative session ended. Lawmakers, perhaps thinking better of moving the controversial bill forward, didn’t even give it a hearing.

Outlets such as the “Minneapolis Star-Tribune” and NBC covered the bill, letting Minnesotans know just how much the agribusiness industry has to hide.

These bills are attracting well-deserved notoriety as media outlets across the country expose animal agribusiness for attempting to silence whistle-blowers and continue abusing animals with impunity. For example, the “New York Times” recently editorialized against the bills, and the paper’s columnist Mark Bittman published a scathing commentary against them. CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360” and a number of other national and local outlets in Florida, Iowa, and Minnesota have also covered the issue.

HSUS Minnesota state director Howard Goldman said, “This bill would have criminalized whistle-blowing at a time when we need more transparency about animal welfare, not less.”

Draconian Measures

Big Ag has promoted similar bills in other states that would prevent Americans from learning about factory farm cruelties. The bills would not only criminalize the documentation of these abuses, but in some cases even the possession of such photos or video.The Minnesota bill’s expiration came just as lawmakers in New York introduced a similar bill to curtail First Amendment rights and protect factory farms.

The efforts to ban such whistle-blowing are an attempt to prevent investigations such as The HSUS’ exposés of egg producers (Rembrandt, Rose Acre, and Cal-Maine), turkey hatcheries (Willmar Poultry), and pork producers (Smithfield Foods)—as well as our 2008 investigation of a “downed” cow slaughter plant in California that led to the largest meat recall in U.S. history.

“These draconian bills to silence whistle-blowers show just how far the animal agribusiness industry is willing to go, and just how much the industry has to hide,” said Paul Shapiro, senior director of farm animal protection for The HSUS. 

Good show

Listen to audio from a recent Kojo Nnamdi Show on these “ag gag” laws. This show featured Paul Shapiro and Mark Bittman of the “New York Times.”

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