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March 8, 2012

ASPCA®, Mercy For Animals, Farm Sanctuary

Several animal protection
organizations praised the Illinois Judiciary Law Committee for tabling H.B.
5143, a bill aimed at criminalizing whistleblowers who expose animal abuse,
unsafe working conditions, environmental destruction and other illegal and
unethical activities on farms.

The Humane Society of the United
States, the ASPCA®, Mercy For Animals and Farm Sanctuary strongly supported a
motion filed on Tuesday by Rep. Jim Sacia, R-Ill., to table the bill after
concerns were raised over threats to First Amendment rights, food safety,
animal welfare and workers’ rights. Tabling the bill essentially removes it
from consideration.  

“We applaud Illinois’ lawmakers for
recognizing the harmful nature of this bill and essentially killing it,” said
Kristen Strawbridge, Illinois state director for The HSUS. “We urge lawmakers
in states with similar bills pending to follow Illinois’ lead and reject these
dangerous bills.”

“Passage of this bill would have
been a disservice to animals, farmers and the people of Illinois who care about
where their food comes from,” said Vicki Deisner, ASPCA state legislative
director for the Midwest region.  “This bill would have cast doubt on the
entire agriculture community and sent the message that Illinois farms have
something to hide. By letting this bill die, Illinois lawmakers have taken a
stand to protect a wide range of American values. We appreciate that
legislators responded to the wishes of many of their constituents, and hope
that legislators in other states will follow suit.”

“We applaud the Illinois legislature
for listening to the will of the people, rather than caving to the corrupt
motives of the factory farming lobby, by abandoning this dangerous and
ill-conceived bill,” said Nathan Runkle, executive director for Mercy For
Animals. “Truth and transparency in food production is vital to the integrity
of our nation’s food supply and the freedom to expose animal abuse, food safety
violations and other illegal and unethical conduct on factory farms should be
protected and defended.”

“The people of Illinois care about
animal welfare, and they support undercover investigations as one important way
of exposing abuse when it happens,” said Bruce Friedrich, senior director of
strategic initiatives for Farm Sanctuary. “Today’s decision by the Illinois
legislature represents a victory for animal welfare, consumer protection and
free speech.”

The agricultural industry has worked
to introduce similar “ag-gag” bills in states like Indiana, Minnesota,
Missouri, Nebraska, New York, Tennessee and Utah. Recently, an “ag gag” bill
was rejected in Florida, while in Iowa, legislators passed an ag-gag bill
despite a strong outcry from the public in favor of bringing more transparency
to an industry notoriously shrouded in secrecy.

Critics question the
constitutionality of H.B. 5143 as an infringement on the First Amendment, and a
broad spectrum of national
interest groups have spoken out against state ag-gag bills
, including
organizations for animal protection, civil liberties, public health, food
safety, environmental, food justice, legal, workers’ rights and First Amendment
interests.

Facts

  • Investigations
    have played a vital role on the national level in exposing animal welfare
    and food safety issues related to industrialized agriculture. In 2008, an
    HSUS undercover investigation of a slaughter plant in Chino, Calif.
    resulted in the largest meat recall in the nation’s history. The meat
    suppliers faced a $150 million lawsuit for sending meat from sick and
    injured animals to the federal school lunch program and the investigation
    revealed horrific animal abuse.  
  • In
    a recent poll commissioned by the ASPCA, it was revealed that 71 percent
    of Americans support undercover investigative efforts by animal welfare
    organizations to expose animal abuse on industrial farms and almost
    two-thirds (64 percent) oppose making such efforts illegal. The nationwide
    survey also found that 94 percent of Americans feel that it is important
    to have measures in place to ensure that food coming from farm animals is
    safe for people to eat, and 94 percent agree that animals raised for food
    on farms deserve to be free from abuse and cruelty.

 

Media Contacts:

Nathan Runkle, nathanr@mercyforanimals.org, 937-470-9454

Anna West, awest@humanesociety.org, 240-751-2669

Emily Schneider, emily.schneider@aspca.org,
646-291-4575

Meredith Turner, MTurner@farmsanctuary.org,
646-369-6212

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Article source: HSUS

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