California Cattlemen's Introduction of "Ag-Gag" Bill May be Legislative and PR Blunder of the YearYou would think that the beef industry would have its hands full dealing with news reports about the infusion of a distant relative of Mr. Ed in IKEA meatballs and in other "beef" products. But no.
Here in California, the California Cattlemen's Association has embarked on what is likely to go down as the biggest PR blunder of the 2013 legislative session. It is sponsoring a bill that would essentially stop individuals from exposing unsafe food practices and animal cruelty with films and photographs.
Known as an "ag gag" bill, the proposal is patterned after similar legislation that has surfaced in state capitals across the nation. Those bills are based on a template marketed by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a group dominated by conservative special interests, to stop whistleblowers exposing animal cruelty and food safety issues. Even in states dominated by agriculture, the bills have had trouble; even conservatives are wary of the threat to free speech the legislation presents.
Their bill is being carried by Assemblyman Patterson, who apparently was suckered into carrying the bill after wiser legislators turned down the Cattlemen Association's lobbyist. Paterson's district includes the Harris Ranch, well-respected for its quality beef.
Have the California Cattlemen set up Patterson for a boatload of bad press and a backlash at home? It sure looks that way.
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The Ag-Gag Bill didn't do any better the next day in Nebraska
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — A Nebraska bill that would require anyone to report animal cruelty within 24 hours faced an onslaught of criticism Wednesday, with opponents calling it a disingenuous attempt to keep animal rights groups from exposing abuse.
The issue has caught the attention of prominent animal rights advocates, including former "The Price is Right" host Bob Barker, who sent a letter to the Judiciary Committee last week urging its members to kill the proposal.
Sen. Ernie Chambers called the bill "atrocious" during the hearing, and ACLU lobbyist Alan Peterson said the measure was "the most blatantly unconstitutional approach to lawmaking" that he had ever seen. Peterson said the bill violates free speech rights, protections against unreasonable search and seizures, due-process safeguards and protections against self-incrimination.
"This is terrible," Peterson said. "This is just awful, and frankly it's disingenuous to say you're trying to protect animals — unless you regard the Koch brothers as animals."