They say practice makes perfect, but the latest attempt by Arkansas lawmakers to silence those who expose animal abuse in the animal agriculture industry is anything but ideal. House Bill 1665, which is titled “An Act to Create A Cause of Action For Unauthorized Access to Another Person’s Property; And For Other Purposes,” is the state’s fifth attempt to pass this sort of legislation, but this time, unfortunately, it is flying through at record speed and has already hit the governor’s desk. This isn’t entirely surprising, given the political climate of late, but what is astonishing is how far this bill aims to go.
The animal agriculture industry has long sought to suppress those who manage to document the many cruelties that are often imposed upon animals on commercial farms. Such cruelties not only include unspeakable living conditions, as well as extreme confinement and overcrowding but also horrific violence by farmhands who should be banned from ever working with or around animals.
As such, the Arkansas measure would not be the first “ag-gag” bill to become law in the United States. States such as Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, New Mexico, North Dakota, and Utah have already criminalized certain activities that stand to harm their states’ agriculture industries. In some states, such as Idaho, such legislation passed but was later ruled unconstitutional.
All of these bills hinder free speech and place industry interests far above the rights of the people and the well-being of farm animals. Arkansas’s HB 1665, however, is so broadly written that it takes all of this a huge, scary step further by extending its jurisdictions to cover most any industry in the state, excluding only healthcare and medical service providers, state agencies, and state-funded colleges and universities. What that means is, should this bill, sponsored by state Representative DeAnn Vaught and state Senator Gary Stubblefield, be made law, it could become illegal in Arkansas to document or report such things as child abuse at daycare facilities, elder abuse at a nursing home, unsanitary conditions at restaurants, or toxic dumping and other environmental regulation violations conducted by corporations within the state.
This kind of blanket legislation would create a precedent that seriously inhibits our freedoms and Constitutional rights as Americans. Surely, it must be stopped.
Do your part to ensure this bill does not become law by signing this petition on Care2 today.
Image source: ChameleonsEye/Shutterstock