An anti-whistleblower "ag-gag" law was snuck into Kentucky legislature disguised inside a bill meant to improve animal welfare standards, according to critics. The law, which would make it illegal for activists, journalists and employees to film animal cruelty inside factory farms and slaughterhouses, is included under the state's House Bill 222 -- a bill that, on the surface, was meant to eliminate the use of gas as a means of euthanasia on animals in shelters.
The bill was first proposed in January by Kentucky State Representative Joni Jenkins, who said that it was an attempt to raise the state's "terrible" reputation for animal welfare. After passing in the House, the bill then went to the Senate Agriculture Committee, where language was added to it that Jenkins said made it "much more complicated, and maybe even unconstitutional." The Senate committee added the ag-gag legislation itself, says ABC News:
The Senate committee had added a provision that would make it illegal to interfere with agricultural operations by "obtain[ing] access to an agricultural operation through misrepresentation," or filming hidden camera footage of farm operations – making the bill the latest version of the controversial "ag-gag" legislation, according to critics.
Animal advocates have slammed the bill -- and the way it was introduced.
"The purpose of the ag-gag bill is to prevent transparency," said Paul Shapiro, a spokesman for the Humane Society of the United States. "The way they try to get the bill through is that they sneak it through the middle of the night so they can go without any public debate."
While similar bills in other states have been criticized as potentially unconstitutional, Kentucky's ag-gag bill is particularly egregious because it was attached to an existing, popular bill -- one that was virtually unrelated to its content, besides the presence of animals.
"This is not the first time we have seen corporate agricultural interests try to slip an ag-gag provision into a bill at the eleventh hour, but it is especially disappointing that it was added to legislation designed to improve the welfare of animals in Kentucky," Daisy Freund, senior manager of Farm Animal Welfare for the ASPCA, told ABC.
Even Rep. Jenkins, who originally sponsored the bill, said she'd rather it didn't pass, the way it is now.
"It was noncontroversial. I don't think many people were ever against it. To take a simple bill and make it something much more complicated, and maybe even unconstitutional, is certainly disturbing," she said. "I would hope it just dies."
Ag-gag laws have been slammed by animal rights advocates, who say they prevent important exposes of animal cruelty. For instance, here and here are some animal investigations that would never have happened if ag-gag laws were in place.
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