“Ag-Gag” Bills Seek to Stifle Whistleblowing

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Mash-up by EarthDesk. Lorelei7 [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], from Wikimedia Commons. Chicken House By Larry Rana (USDA) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Mash-up by EarthDesk. Lorelei7 [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], from Wikimedia Commons. Chicken House By Larry Rana (USDA) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

If you don’t about Food and Water Watch (and their tenacious New Mexico leader, Eleanor Bravo), you definitely should. Food and Water Watch is a national organization with state affiliates that work on a host of issues, including GMO labelling, anti-fracking policies, environmental regulations, food and agricultural policy, clean water protections, and much more.

Ms. Bravo was in the news today speaking out against potential “ag-gag” laws making their way through the legislature. If you’re not familiar with “ag-gag” laws, here’s how the Fair World Project describes their scope:

“Ag-gag” is a term coined to describe a variety of existing and proposed laws that seek to “gag” or prevent whistleblowers from exposing abuses and crimes within the animal agriculture industry.

As I’m sure you know, Big Ag and Big Dairy are big industries in the Land of Enchantment (anyone who’s ever driven South to Las Cruces on I-25 knows you can smell the giant dairy production facilities from miles away). And while these industries are vital to our state in many ways, they often wield their influence during the legislative session to pass laws that protect them from liabilities and give themselves competitive advantages.

Read the article from Public News Service below to see which ag-gag bills are poised to pass through our legislature this session (and the reasons they shouldn’t):

SANTA FE, N.M. – Lawmakers in New Mexico are considering proposed legislation that an activist says amounts to being an “ag-gag,” a term used to describe laws that seek to silence whistleblowers.

Eleanor Bravo, Southwest organizer for Food and Water Watch, said Senate Bill 221 would make it a crime for anyone who has made a video or a digital recording that shows injury to livestock to not submit the unedited, spliced or altered video to a law enforcement agency within 24 hours.

“It’s a convoluted way of deterring whistleblowers, of people revealing things that are going on in these factory farms that are basically against the law, all kinds of laws,” she said. “Could be environmental, could be animal protection.”

SB 221 states that failing to provide the video to law enforcement within 24 hours would be a misdemeanor. Bravo said she believes the intent of the law is to keep video showing animal abuses at corporate farms from being given to the media and other sources.

State Sen. Cliff Pirtle, R-Roswell, the bill’s sponsor, had not replied to our request for comment by the time this story was produced.

Bravo also pointed to House Bill 564, which she said would make it more difficult to sue corporate farms for causing undue noise, water and air pollution.

“It removes their right to seek damages for the effects of living near a huge factory farm,” she said.

Bravo said bills in different forms during each year’s legislative session seek to protect corporate agriculture.

The texts of SB 221 and HB 564 are online.