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ASPCA Commends Decision to Pull Harmful Anti-Whistleblower/"Ag-Gag" Measure from California Assembly Committee on Agriculture

Move is a victory for farm animal welfare and food safety concerns
April 17, 2013

NEW YORK—The ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) commends the Chair of the Assembly Agriculture Committee, Assembly Member Eggman, and all of the committee's members for their willingness to listen to our concerns with AB 343, the California Cattlemen's Association anti-whistleblower/ag-gag measure. Educating legislators about the chilling effects this bill would have on investigations was key in getting this bill pulled from the hearing. 

The bill, which was introduced by the California Cattlemen's Association, was purportedly aimed at preventing animal cruelty at agricultural facilities. In reality, AB 343 sought to suppress whistleblowers and protect animal abusers instead of working to prevent such mistreatment. 

The bill would have required individuals who knowingly documented evidence of farm animal cruelty to turn over their evidence to law enforcement officials within 120 hours. This mandatory reporting provision would have imposed an arbitrary and short reporting deadline, precluding thorough investigations that could reveal a pattern of abuse. In addition, would-be whistleblowers would have been dissuaded from turning over evidence after the prescribed period of time for fear of prosecution, and evidence that was turned over after the designated deadline could have potentially been excluded from legal proceedings, thereby hindering prosecutions.

AB 343 was introduced in the Assembly in February and was referred to the Committee on Agriculture in March. Just last week, the bill was amended to exempt the agriculture industry's own security cameras from the mandate in the legislation to turn over documented acts of cruelty to law enforcement.

"This amendment left no question about the motives behind the bill: to allow agriculture operations to neglect their responsibility to the American public and end investigations into animal cruelty and food safety," said Kevin O’Neill, senior director of ASPCA Government Relations for the Western region. "We are grateful for the large, diverse coalition that stood with us in opposition to AB 343.  This united stand against this measure played a major part in today's decision to pull the bill from committee."

In 2008, an investigation of a dairy cow slaughter plant in Chino prompted the largest meat recall in U.S. history and resulted in criminal convictions. AB 343 would have prevented this and other similar investigations from taking place, many of which have uncovered crucial health and welfare information and prompted groundbreaking reforms.

"AB 343 suggested that California's agricultural industry had something to hide," added Suzanne McMillan, director of the ASPCA’s Farm Animal Welfare Campaign. "By stopping this harmful bill, California has acknowledged the critical role an informed public plays in improving animal welfare and making our food safer."

In addition to California, anti-whistleblower/"ag-gag" legislation has been introduced this year in Arkansas, Indiana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Vermont and Wyoming. No bills have been successful. The ASPCA is working to oppose these bills in all the states where they have been proposed. For more information on this issue, please visit www.aspca.org/ag-gag. To join the ASPCA Advocacy Brigade, please visit www.aspca.org/advocacy.

The ASPCA is appreciative for the support of so many different organizations in opposing this measure, which include: A Well Fed World, ACLU of California American Society for the Prevention of   Cruelty to Animals, Animal Legal Defense Fund, Animal Place, Animal Welfare Institute, Born Free USA, CA Teamsters Public Affairs Council, California Horsemen's Alliance, California Labor Federation, California Newspaper Publishers Association, Compassion in World Farming, Compassion Over Killing, Diana Basehart Foundation, Ena Valikov, DVM, Equal Justice Alliance, Farm Animal Reform Movement (FARM), Farm Forward,     Farm Sanctuary, Farmer at Tipping Tree Farm, Food & Water Watch, Food Empowerment Project, Humane Farming Association, Humane Society of the United States, Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, Injured & Orphaned Wildlife, Inland Valley Humane Society & SPCA, Jim Reynolds, DVM, MPVM, League of Humane Voters, Marin Humane Society, Mercy for Animals, Monterey County SPCA, National Press Photographers Association, Organic Consumers Association, Paul Kortez, Los Angeles City Council Fifth District, Paw Pac, Paw Project, Protecting Earth & Animals with Compassion & Education (PEACE), Public Interest Coalition, Public Justice Center, Rescue House, Resqcats, Inc., San Francisco SPCA, Senior Citizens for Humane Legislation and Education, Sierra Club California, Slow Food USA Governor, Central Valley Region of California, Social Compassion in Legislation (SCIL), Socially Responsible Agriculture Project (SRAP), State Humane Association of California, Sustainable Economies Law Center, Take Me Home, Animal Rescue, Unitarian Universalist Animal Ministry, United Food & Commercial Workers, Western States Council, Vegan Coalition, Whistleblower Support Fund