Before leaving Nashville for the year, the Tennessee General Assembly passed a so-called “ag gag” bill that prohibits the secret videotaping of animal abuse cases. The measure is based on model legislation written by the American Legislative Exchange Council (a conservative, free-market advocacy organization) and would require anyone who records abuse to livestock to submit that evidence to law enforcement authorities within 48 hours.
As of this writing, Gov. Bill Haslam has not signed the bill into law. The Humane Society of the United States, the American Civil Liberties Union and other animal welfare groups have launched an ad campaign in an effort to convince Haslam to veto the bill. One ad calls attention to troubling video that was used last year to expose to the abuse of Tennessee Walking Horses.
In 2011, the Humane Society secretly filmed video inside a stable showing trainers applying caustic substances to the horses’ legs and beating them to make them stand. This practice is know as “soring,” and is roundly condemned by reputable trainers.
Country music star and animal rights lover Carrie Underwood is one of many who have voiced opposition to passage of the ag gag bill. She and other critics of the measure say by outlawing such undercover videos, the state is lending aid and comfort to farming operations that wish to hide animal cruelty, food and labor safety violations.
“Shame on TN lawmakers for passing the Ag Gag bill. If Gov. Bill Haslam signs this, he needs to expect me at his front door. Who’s with me?” wrote Underwood, who is also a Tennessee resident.
The House sponsor of the bill, state Rep. Andy Holt, R-Dresden, was quick to dismiss Underwood’s comments. “I would say that if Carrie Underwood will stick to singing, I’ll stick to lawmaking,” Holt told a TV station in Nashville.
To which Underwood responded on Twitter: “I should stick to singing? Wow ... sorry, I’m just a tax-paying citizen concerned for the safety of my family.”
We want to hear from you. Should Haslam veto the ag gag bill? Send your comments to Mailbag, P.O. Box 1717, Johnson City, TN 37605-1717, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name, telephone number and address.