Despite failing repeatedly in the past to pass legislation that would suppress whistleblowers exposing cruelty to animals, lawmakers in Arkansas are back with another bill that’s already progressing through the legislature.
These dangerous bills, which have otherwise become known as ‘ag gag‘ bills, aim to criminalize whistleblowers and have been stirring controversy for years. As disturbing as it is to think the lawmakers that are supposed to represent us are actively working toward passing laws that would shield animal abusers and other criminal activity from being exposed, they are.
Although attempts to pass ag gag bills have repeatedly failed in multiple states, and have been challenged where they have passed, lawmakers in Arkansas are trying again to make their state one of the successes by passing an ag gag bill (HB 1665/SB 751) that’s already been passed in the House and has moved on to the Senate for consideration.
Multiple animal advocacy organizations have released undercover footage of what happens to animals behind closed doors. These investigations have played an important role in not only exposing egregious abuse and unsanitary living conditions that farm animals endure, but also standard industry practices that are not humane. In some cases these investigations have even resulted in criminal charges and new laws.
The materials provided by such investigations have shed light into otherwise closed facilities and have prompted thought, debate and reform regarding the treatment and use of animals in agriculture that would have been hidden from us.
Clearly these investigations are bad for those making a profit from animal agriculture, which is what has helped spur this type of legislation, but in this case it goes much further than animal agriculture.
Arkansas’ most recent version of this legislation not only shields egregious animal cruelty, but it also covers essentially all private businesses. It could potentially criminalize people trying to expose child abuse in daycares, cruelty in puppy mills, food safety issues in restaurants and environmental pollution, among other problems. It will leave whistleblowers, who could be sued directly under this bill, vulnerable to facing costly lawsuits just because they want to bring to light cruel, illegal or unethical activity.
It is a shame to see lawmakers in Arkansas are working to protect businesses that have something to hide at the expense of animal welfare, food safety, workers’ rights, the public and the First Amendment.