Veto of ag gag bill would be best thing for the animals

May. 07, 2013 @ 11:31 PM

Editor:

Sevier County residents should be alarmed by SB1248/HB1191, the anti-whistleblower bill that, if signed into law, will criminalize the actions of those who document inhumane and illegal activity at industrial farming operations and horse stables.

This bill would block the discovery of animal abuses such as those uncovered last year at the stable of Tennessee walking horse trainer, Jackie McConnell. As a result of that investigation, a federal grand jury handed down a 52-count criminal indictment and a state grand jury indicted McConnell and two others for 38 counts of criminal animal cruelty.

The bill does not prevent animal abuse. Instead, it prevents undercover investigators from collecting enough evidence to document patterns of abuses.

Nearly a dozen Tennessee newspapers and animal welfare charities like ours are urging Gov. Bill Haslam to veto this bill, and so are citizens and groups across the state. For example, over 300 Tennessee clergy members have asked for a veto of this bill, as have celebrities like Carrie Underwood and Emmylou Harris.

Just as similar legislation has been rejected this year in states like Arkansas, Indiana and California, so, too, should Tennessee pull the plug on it.

I must also correct Michael Sharp’s misinformation about our organization in his recent letter to the editor. The HSUS received the highest possible rating by Charity Navigator, is approved by the Better Business Bureau for all 20 standards for charity accountability, was voted by Guidestar’s Philanthropedia experts as the No. 1 high-impact animal protection group, and was named by Worth Magazine as one of the 10 most fiscally responsible charities.

Our organization helps animals by advocating for better laws to protect animals; working for industry improvements; providing animal rescue and emergency response; investigating cases of animal cruelty; and caring for animals through our sanctuaries and wildlife rehabilitation centers, emergency shelters and clinics.

Vetoing the ag gag bill will not only be better for the animals of Tennessee, it will protect all of us from a special interest bill that would erode our First Amendment rights while laying out the welcome mat for corrupt businesses who wish to operate under a cloak of secrecy.

Leighann McCollum

Tennessee State Director

Humane Society of the United States

Franklin, Tenn.