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.