Friday, March 22, 2013

Animal cruelty: three NE lawmakers sponsor Ag-Gag bill (LB204) to hide animal abuse, jail whistleblowers

LB240, introduced by (l-r) O'Neill Sen. Tyson Larson (Dist. 40) and now cosponsored by
Omaha Sen. Scott Laughtenbaugh (Dist. 18) and Ogallala Sen. Ken Schilz (Dist. 47)
They're called "Ag-Gag" bills and they've been introduced (and sometimes passed) all over the country by stooges of ALEC, the Koch Brothers-funded syndicate which distributes marching orders (in the form of "model" legislation) to compliant state legislators who represent corporate interests first and those of their constituents second or not at all.
     The first part of Larson's bill follows the ALEC template to a "T" — it requires anyone who observes "cruel mistreatment" of an animal to file a report (including the reporter's name and phone number)  to the "entity or entities that investigate such reports in that jurisdiction" within 24 hours.
     This seems reasonable and even humane — but it's a trick intended to deprive whistleblowers of time necessary to document illegal activity under federal humane handling and food safety laws.
     Tyson Larson's clear intent is to keep whistleblowers from gathering enough evidence of systemic, intentional abuse in order to enable successful prosecution of the abuser.

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      Larson's Statement of Intent for LB204 would also "require the person making the report to turn over any evidence of the incident, including video, photographs, or audio collected" to authorities (even if the whistleblower knows they won't do anything to prosecute.)
     There's more: "LB204 would also create penalties (up to a class III felony!) for an individual who makes a false statement or representation as part of an application to be employed at an animal facility with the intent of damaging or interfering with the operations of that animal facility. This includes the individual causing economic damage to the facility and its operations..."
     So if a member of the Humane Society gets a job at the facility of a notorious animal abuser and conceals his/her intent on the application, then documents the abuse over, say, a month, then posts a video which goes viral and causes McDonald's and Wendy's to stop buying from the facility, causing "economic damage..." well, you can see where Tyson Larson's scheme is going, can't you?

     Below is some verbiage from Peta (which is lobbying against this, as is the Humane Society) that you can drop into an email to your senator or the members of the Unicameral's Judiciary Committee. Be sure to tell your state senator that you want to be updated on the disposition of this pending bill  and how s/he voted:
Subject line: Please oppose LB204

Dear Senator _____________

I am writing as your constituent to urge you to vote "No" on L.B. 204. If passed, this bill would require that suspected cruelty witnessed on factory farms, in laboratories, and in other facilities that abuse animals be reported to law-enforcement authorities within 24 hours, making it difficult for whistleblowers and undercover investigators to secure evidence of a pattern of routine, systemic cruelty that police and prosecutors demand. The bill could force the premature exposure of those efforts, and it is a clear attempt to hide from consumers and the public at large the grim realities of factory farming and animal experimentation.

Consumers all across the country are demanding better treatment of animals, not for the agriculture industry to cover up illegal cruelty, which is why similar bills have died in Indiana, Tennessee, Minnesota, Florida, New York, and Illinois. Please help show that our state has nothing to hide: Vote "No" on L.B. 204! 

Thank you for your attention and for all that you do for Nebraskans.
Pick up the phone and call!

Brad Ashford (Chair)
Steve Lathrop (Vice Chair)
Ernie Chambers
Mark Christensen
Colby Coash
Al Davis
Amanda McGill
Les Seiler
(no email address)

Here's an overview of how Ag-Gag laws really work, from the Humane Society:

Anti-whistleblower bills effectively block anyone from exposing animal cruelty, food safety issues, poor working conditions, and more, by way of the following:
  • Banning taking a photo or video of a factory farm without permission,
  • Banning possession and distribution of such photos or videos,
  • Essentially making it a crime for an investigator to get work at a factory farm, or
  • Requiring mandatory reporting with impossibly short timelines so that no pattern of abuse can be documented.

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