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Sunday, May 18, 2014

Environment - "Why do American farmers need some of the strongest anti-whistleblower laws in the land?"

That is the heading to this long story by Josh Voorhees in Slate. A few quotes:

Earlier this year, Idaho became at least the seventh state to pass a law aimed specifically at thwarting such undercover investigations, and roughly a dozen similar bills are currently winding their way through statehouses around the country. While the specifics vary, so-called ag-gag laws generally make it illegal to covertly record animal abuse on farms, or to lie about any ties to animal rights groups or news organizations when applying for a farm job. Idaho’s law is the strictest of those currently on the books. It threatens muckrakers with up to a year in jail and fines up to $5,000—a sentence, it should be noted, that’s the same as what someone convicted of animal abuse faces.

The laws specifically target animal rights groups like the Humane Society of the United States, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and similar organizations that have increasingly turned to clandestine video in their battle with Big Ag. But the way many of the laws are tailored, they also could ensnare journalists, whistleblowers, and even unions in their legal net, in the process raising serious concerns about the legal impact on everything from free speech to food safety. A wide-ranging coalition of organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Food Safety, has joined animal rights groups in challenging the Idaho law, along with a similar one in Utah, in federal court. The lawsuits also have the backing of the Government Accountability Project, the AFL-CIO, and a host of media organizations, including NPR. * * *

Both sides are set to get their day in court later this summer when a federal judge hears the suit against the Idaho law. But even if the law is ultimately struck down, the fight will continue. “If it fails, we’ll revise it,” [State Sen. Jim Patrick, a lead sponsor of the Idaho legislation] said. “I know we did the right thing.”

Posted by Marcia Oddi on May 18, 2014 12:13 PM
Posted to Environment