Indiana General Assembly to Start 2014 with Disappointing Return of Ag Gag Bill
INDIANAPOLIS, IN – The Indiana Senate Corrections and Criminal Law Committee will start its 2014 hearing schedule with a bill that faced wide opposition last year and now includes even more harmful language to prosecute environmental and animal rights watchdogs who expose dangerous and unethical practices at factory farms.
Senate Bill 101, which is expected to be heard by the committee upon adjournment of session Tuesday, is being introduced by Senator Travis Holdman (SD 19). It allows owners of industrial livestock operations to post signs on their property that list whatever the owner determines are criminal activities – “crimes” which could include videotaping, photography, or reporting observations of abuse to law enforcement officials or the press. Violators of these operator-defined “crimes” will be considered to have committed a level 6 felony.
Last year Ag-Gag was defeated because it clearly violated free speech protections by criminalizing whistle-blowing activities at factory farms.
“This bill is even worse”, said Kim Ferraro, staff attorney and water and agriculture policy director for the Hoosier Environmental Council. Kim also said:
“In attempting to side-step First Amendment implications, the meat industry is now proposing to let private citizens and corporations prohibit photographing and videotaping by posting a sign. This insidious maneuver, however, is an unconstitutional delegation of the General Assembly’s legislative power to decide what constitutes a felony. To allow private citizens to individually decide not only what conduct will constitute a felony, but how such conduct will be described and identified, is a recipe for abuse and antithetical to a system of justice that seeks uniformity of justice, equal protection and due process under the law.”
The Hoosier Environmental Council has joined a coalition of organizations publicly opposing the bill. You can see a list of coalition members and the coalition statement at: https://www.dropbox.com/s/tv1lp0nm1n7rham/COALITION%20STATEMENT%20OF%20OPPOSITION%20TO%20SB101.pdf
Opponents are encouraged to attend the hearing to make their concerns known. Representatives of the coalition, including the Hoosier Environmental Council, plan to testify at Tuesday’s hearing.