Letter: Misunderstanding abounds over proposed animal-abuse legislation

May. 02, 2013 @ 11:43 PM

Editor:

There seems to be an immense misunderstanding as to the effect of SB1248/HB1191 labeled the video of animal abuse legislation.

SB1248/HB1191 is intended to stop animal abuse quickly with the abusers punished. The bill requires individuals, who intentionally record for the purpose of documenting what they believe to be illegal animal cruelty activity against livestock, to report the event and provide unedited images to law enforcement promptly.

This legislation requires the submission of the video/photographs to be made within 48 hours or the close of the next business day, whichever is later. If the images are not provided to law enforcement within the specified time, the individual responsible for the images is guilty of a Class C misdemeanor. There is nothing which prohibits the individual from retaining copies. This bill in no way infringes upon media’s First Amendment right to report.

Sadly, there may be individuals who commit crimes against livestock. This should neither be accepted nor ignored. Any abuse of animals should be punished. Any proof should be promptly provided to law enforcement.

Tennessee is not the first or only state to pass laws to protect agriculture. Iowa, Utah, Kansas, North Dakota and Montana have enacted similar bills. Additionally, there is pending legislation in six states. The Tennessee law will in no way impede the revelation and punishment of livestock abusers — indeed it will bring abusers to punishment quicker and end the animal mistreatment.

This bill will help stop both animal abuse and the intentional misuse of recorded images to harm a business in the court of public opinion. Providing evidence of animal abuse to law enforcement in a timely manner accomplishes both.

There has been a huge media campaign launched in Tennessee by the Humane Society of the United States in opposition. The HSUS is an animal rights activist group that uses its considerable budget to threaten America’s hardworking farmers and ranchers. It is not affiliated with any local animal shelter.

HSUS and other animal rights groups are not concerned with improving animal welfare. These extremists are working to prohibit the ownership and use of animals in any way — for companionship, entertainment, or food. HSUS promotes a vegan agenda and is focused on eliminating meat, milk, and eggs from consumers’ lifestyles and diets.

HSUS dedicates a significant amount of its $100 million budget to fund-raising. HSUS spends as much as $40 to generate every $100 raised. HSUS 2008 tax return shows that only one-half of one percent of the group’s funds actually went towards caring for animals.

Long-term undercover video campaigns conducted by animal rights activists are not the answer to ending abuse of animals. We all have a responsibility to report abuse to knowledgeable agencies who make the determination to file charges and punish offenders in a timely manner.

This legislation is well written and applicable to ending abuse to livestock in a timely manner. It was discussed intensely in both the House and Senate and passed by majority vote based on the merits of the legislation. This legislation is a step forward in establishing Tennessee as being proactive in ending animal abuse.

Michael Sharp

Sevierville