Tennessee Animal Cruelty Prevention Act Heating Up

Tennessee State Line
Tennessee State Line (Photo credit: J. Stephen Conn)

Updated: The bill was vetoed by Tenn. Governor Haslam on Monday, May 13. Story from the Tennessean here. Haslam’s statement can be seen in this piece from the Knoxville News Sentinel.

A follow-up to a previous post regarding the heated “Ag gag” bills/laws across the country.

The controversy over so-called ‘Ag gag’ bills has heated up in Tennessee during the past few weeks. Celebrities the likes of Carrie Underwood and Ellen Degeneres have been touting their status and rallying fans to urge TN Governor Haslam to veto HB1191/SB1248 that would protect Tennessee animals subject to cruelty. Carrie Underwood, I can understand, she actually lives in TN. But Ellen?

What does the Tennessee bill actually say?

Easy. It’s a one-page piece of legislation, passed by both Houses, with only one amendment, awaiting the Governor’s signature.

“SECTION 1. Tennessee Code Annotated, Section 39-14-202, is amended by adding the following language as a new, appropriately designated subsection:

( ) Any person who records by photograph or video a violation of subsection (a)

as committed against livestock shall, within forty-eight (48) hours of the photograph’s or recording’s creation:

(1) Report such violation to law enforcement authorities; and

(2) Submit any unedited photographs or video recordings to law enforcement authorities.

SECTION 2. This act shall take effect July 1, 2013, the public welfare requiring it.”

If only more legislation by governments across this country could be that short and to the point.

Bills and laws like this have been stirring up dust across the country. I shared my thoughts here on the blog last month in a post that was picked up by CNN Eatocracy. Since then, the same page has posted perspectives by Ohio farmer, Mike Haley, along with VP of Farm Animal Protection for the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), Paul Shapiro.

Largely the perspectives from the agriculture side did not receive a lot of feedback. However, Shapiro’s post came with several comments very negative about the issue. Personally, many of them are 1 and 2 liners that look like someone rallied the troops and invited everyone to post a comment in opposition to the ‘ag gag’ bills.

To me, a bill like TN HB1191/SB1248 is important because it limits the undercover and investigative recording of groups like HSUS who splice together and narrate the footage, then use it in a release that happens to be very timely for their fundraising efforts. Nashville’s Fox affiliate featured a story this week that highlighted just how deceptive HSUS’ fundraising campaigns are in regards to contributions to actual animal shelters.

The bill is not a “gag” as many folks have labeled. It requires immediate reporting of cruelty and prevents out-of-context, deceptive undercover investigations released to the public. Does our food and farm system need to be more transparent in its practices? Yes. But these undercover videos only hamper that situation.

I’m not 100% behind this type of legislation and feel it important to highlight my previous statement“Our country doesn’t need another law telling us how to act behind the gates. We need encouragement for better transparency without harassment from others seeking to place blame and mislead for personal gain.”

Everyone is allowed to have an opinion here, and I think both sides are passionate about stopping animal cruelty. How much clearer can we get than the Tennessee bill in question?

We need a better understand of how each side is defining cruelty in livestock and some open-mindedness long enough to sit down and come to an understanding of what is best for our livestock and those caring for them.


  1. If Farms have nothing to hide, why would they worry? No more laws on the books. No abrogation of freedom of speech. Transparency is the key, if farmers are proud of the conditions in which they raise their animals, then they should post their own pix and videos and give tours of their farms to the public. The public should have a choice on which farmer they choose to buy their meats. We need more state controlled ( not USDA controlled) slaughter houses and butcher shops so there is more availability for farmers to process their animals for local communities. When there is trust in a community and transparency and choice, there is no need for undercover videos or pictures.

    1. Agreed. Transparency is key. And agriculture is working to do a better job of that.

      But can you really say that the undercover videos released by organizations like HSUS are a fair representation of what occurs on farms? Is it lawful to hold on to video of other crimes in society until it suits your fundraising activities? Is it lawful to gain employment under deceptive circumstances in other industries?

      Those are questions that come to mind for me.

  2. Producing the meat that 95 percent of Americans eat is not a pretty business. That’s why 98 percent of Americans outsource the task to someone else. That 98 percent gets to create dreamy pictures of farm live while eating their hamburgers. The anti-meat folks have gotten more sophisticated and can no longer get away with showing a photo of a side of beef and scream ANIMAL CRUELTY! Producing the meat we eat involves blood, guts and taking life: the exact same way hawks, wolves, foxes and other wild animals we like to protect do it. Show that to anyone and they’ll swear off meat — for a week or so. Blood, guts and killing, while ugly, is not the same thing as animal cruelty. But add dramatic music, melodramatic narration with a pre-summed cruelty bias to carefully edited video and you’ve got a compelling visual that’s hard to defend. If animals are actually suffering, holding on to video for months for political impact should be a crime. If the goal is to stop cruelty, it should be reported immediately, not 48 hours later. But I doubt that stopping cruelty is the goal; stopping meat production is.

    I moved from the city as a middle aged man to start producing my own food. I knew how hypocritical it was to need and enjoy meat, but be ignorant about how it got to my plate. I decided that if I was going to eat meat, I was going to be responsible for knowing how I got it.

    Until we can produce meat in a laboratory instead of a farm (Ingrid Newkirk once suggested we start eating meat cloned in a lab) our Sunday chicken dinner will be ugly to produce. If you can’t deal with it, don’t.

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