'Ag Gag Bill' targets undercover work - WSLS 10 NBC in Roanoke/Lynchburg Va

'Ag Gag Bill' targets undercover work

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Animal rights groups say a state bill making its way through the legislature would jeopardize food safety.

Activists say Senate Bill 468, N.C. Commerce Protection Act of 2013, denies animal rights groups the ability to hold farmers accountable. The bill, if signed into law, makes it a crime for an organization or individual to lie about who they are in order to video on farms.

S.B. 468 would make it unlawful for a prospective employee to lie about how they are or who they represent.

"How can they be trusted when they're going in telling lies to get hired?" Republican Sen. Brent Jackson said.

Undercover work by the Humane Society of the United States has revealed widespread incidents of animal cruelty at farms in places such as Wyoming and California.

Recordings made by undercover members of the Humane Society in Wyoming showed workers at a pork farm punching and throwing pigs. The videos led to nine workers at the pork farm being charged with cruelty to animals.

Also, a 2008 investigation by the Humane Society at a California cattle farm revealed workers mistreating animals by using forklifts and chains to move them in effort to get the cattle to pass USDA inspection. The video led to the largest meat recall in history.

"If it wasn't for our investigation, that meat was destined for the school lunch program. This was food going to children," Matt Dominguez, public policy manager for Farm Animal Protection at The Humane Society of the United States, said.

Jackson, who is sponsoring S.B, 648, known as the "Ag Gag Bill," says incidents like those documented by the Humane Society are not the norm.

"I think these are isolated incidents where bad things happened. We live in a world where if you are under a microscope 24 hours a day, you're going to make a mistake," Jackson said.

The Humane Society sees things differently.

"Instead of cleaning up their bad behavior, they want to criminalize anyone who tries to speak out against them," Dominguez said.

North Carolina is one of 11 states to propose Ag Gag Bill-type legislation this year. In 2012, 10 states introduced similar legislation. Three of those bills were signed into law.

Charlotte Huffman

An award-winning journalist with an investigative edge, Charlotte has driven legislative change with reports on workplace safety concerns and contaminated groundwater. Contact our Investigative Team anytime HERE. More>>

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