Monday, January 26, 2015

Proposed legislation would hide environmental / animal abuse

In December of 2012 nine employees of a pig farm near Wheatland, Wyoming were charged with cruelty to animals after an undercover investigation by the Humane Society for the United States.  These workers were charged with cruelty to animals after a film showing them kicking, punching, throwing sick and baby pigs like soccer balls and punching lactating mother pigs with their fists.  It is also clear from the film that sick pigs were not only abused but did not receive medical care.

A bill currently being considered by the Wyoming legislature, SF12, would protect agri-businesses that abuse animals; break labor, or environmental laws by criminalizing investigators, whistleblowers or journalists that attempted to expose any type of abuse.  In the Platte County case the people punished would not have been the abusers, but the individuals that exposed the abuse.

Agribusinesses that are violating animal cruelty laws, food safety protections, environmental protections or labor laws not only get a free pass on their violations but under another bill filed, SF80, will be able to sue the whistleblowers for damages for “delay in business operations, cost of additional regulatory requirements or increased business expenses”.   

These bills seek to ensure that agribusiness will be able to carry on their business with no oversight from the public or the press and are the response to investigations that have found horrifying or dangerous practices on business property.

These bills are not about private property rights; the ACLU supports laws against trespass and Wyoming’s long history of private property protections.  These bills are not about property rights, these bills are about hiding abuse and environmental malfeasance; agriculture should not have special protections for misconduct.

Linda Burt
Executive Director
ACLU of Wyoming

(As originally run in the Casper Star Tribune and Wyoming Tribune Eagle on 1/25/15)