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22 posts from April 2013


April 30, 2013

Inside the Slaughterhouse: My Interview with Timothy Pachirat - Part 2

Yesterday, The HSUS applauded the announcement from the Retail Council of Canada that all eight of the largest Canadian supermarket chains – Wal-Mart Canada, Costco Canada, Metro, Loblaw, Safeway Canada, Federated Co-operatives, Sobeys and Co-op Atlantic – will move away from gestation crate confinement of pigs in their supply systems over the next nine years. It’s yet another remarkable seismic shift in the debate over extreme confinement of pigs, and it’s more evidence of the inevitability of global change within the pork industry.

Every Twelve Seconds: Industrialized Slaughter and the Politics of Sight

Trade associations for industrial pork producers don’t much like the cascade of similar announcements they’ve heard from The HSUS and from major food retailers over the last year or so. Frustrated by this sudden progress, they are trying to throw up roadblocks wherever they can, and for the past year, their tactic of choice has been to try to halt our cruelty investigations by pushing for anti-whistleblower or “ag-gag” bills in several states. There are a half dozen states with such laws on the books, and they most certainly threaten our ability to investigate cruelty at factory farms and slaughter plants.

Yesterday, I posted the first half of my interview with New School political science professor Timothy Pachirat, whose recent book, “Every Twelve Seconds: Industrialized Slaughter and the Politics of Sight,” could not be more timely. Pachirat got a job at a slaughter plant in Nebraska, and worked there for six months. He’s got plenty of insights in his book about what’s at work in industrialized slaughter plants and what’s beneath the surface, psychologically and sociologically.

Here’s the second half of the interview:

Wayne Pacelle: It was not long into your time as a worker at the plant that you were promoted to the role of quality inspector in the plant. What did you learn as a result of your time in that role?

Timothy Pachirat: I learned how great the distance is between regulatory rules and reality. I also learned how the imperative of turning a profit trumps every other consideration on the kill floor. Importantly, my promotion also allowed me to roam the slaughterhouse at will, a freedom of movement that allowed me to map, in great detail, the spatial and labor divisions of the kill floor.

WP: Early in the last century, Upton Sinclair sought the same kind of deep immersion in a slaughtering plant, and the result was “The Jungle,” which spawned reforms in the federal government’s oversight of the American food supply. Your work is not strongly prescriptive, but are there some reforms you would like to see in the near future?

TP: The best hope for change, I think, lies in bringing together the animal, labor, and food safety movements into a broader coalition. These groups have different end-goals that at times put them in tension with one another, but all can agree that industrialized slaughter as it is currently practiced is in need of deep, radical change. Rather than prescribe what changes are needed from a removed point of view, I would like to start by bringing these groups into conversation and seeing what emerges.

WP: You’ve argued that the sight and visibility of repugnant practices may not in and of itself be enough to inspire reform. What else is needed?

TP: I think increased sight and visibility are necessary, but not sufficient for the kinds of deep changes that are needed. We also need to create spaces for meaningful interactions and relationships between consumers and farm animals and between consumers and immigrant workers that are not just about the revelation of existing horrific practices but that also point to what might be possible, in a positive, constructive sense.

WP: The timing of your book is extraordinary, in light of the current effort to enact ag-gag laws throughout the nation. Are you surprised by the spate of ag-gag laws?

TP: Not at all. They point to the deep fear on the part of the industrialized animal industry about what might happen if the everyday violence against animals and workers were made public. It is a reactive move that underscores how important concealment is to the continued operation of industrialized animal agriculture. It is also a highly dangerous move that works against animal welfare, worker rights, food safety, and, ultimately, the quality of democratic deliberation in the United States.

WP: The USDA team attempted to recruit you as a whistleblower at one point. What is your assessment of the USDA’s role in oversight of animal slaughter?

TP: Individual USDA inspectors often act courageously under conditions of extreme intimidation to document individual instances of animal abuse and food safety violations. But as a regulatory agency, the USDA is deeply flawed. It is tasked with regulating the very industry it is also charged with promoting, creating perverse incentives at a structural level against enacting and enforcing the kinds of oversight that is truly needed.

April 29, 2013

Inside the Slaughterhouse: My Interview with Timothy Pachirat

Early Saturday morning, the Indiana Legislature adjourned without passing an onerous and far-reaching ag-gag bill. It was an important stymying of a bill that was an affront to farm animal welfare and the First Amendment. The Senate had cleared the bill by a vote of 29 to 21, but House Speaker Brian Bosma pulled the bill after a number of House members condemned it as a transparent attempt to deny Americans the right to see what’s happening with the nation’s food supply.

Every Twelve Seconds: Industrialized Slaughter and the Politics of Sight

Meanwhile, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam has not yet signaled where he stands on the bill that just narrowly passed the state legislature there. Almost every major newspaper in the state has condemned the bill and there’s been a broad outpouring of public disapproval, including criticisms from the Tennessee Press Association and the Tennessee Association of Broadcasters. As I wrote last week, there was a raid on a major Tennessee walking horse trainer and figure, and it is alleged that he violated state and federal law by soring horses. The HSUS is now assisting with the care of the injured horses.

Ag-gag legislation would also impede public access to information about slaughter practices and the operation of slaughtering plants, in addition to shielding factory farms from any public scrutiny, and we can’t afford to let that happen. Timothy Pachirat’s book, “Every Twelve Seconds: Industrialized Slaughter and the Politics of Sight,” could not be timelier. A political science professor at the New School in New York City, Pachirat spent six months working at a slaughterhouse in Nebraska. I’ve done a short Q&A with him, and I’ll be publishing it in two installments – today and tomorrow.

Here’s the first half of our exchange:

Wayne Pacelle: Working at a slaughter plant has to be one of the toughest, most morally deadening jobs there is. Did a lot of people come and go during your six-month stint?

Timothy Pachirat: The turnover rate in the slaughterhouse is incredibly high; industry-wide it is close to 100 percent and that was reflected in my experiences as well. But equally startling was the long line of people at the employment trailer each morning trying to get a job in the plant.  

WP: Why did you select the slaughter plant as a subject of study?

TP: I wanted to understand how massive processes of violence are normalized in modern society. Close to 27 million land animals are killed each day in the United States by dispossessed humans laboring under horrific conditions, and yet this massive work of violence is completely normalized and, for the most part, completely hidden from the sight and consciousness of those who rely on its products on a daily basis. What are the social, political and linguistic mechanisms at work to make this kind of massive, everyday killing possible?  

WP: In your book, you observe and explain why slaughter plants and factory farms are often in very rural, out-of-the-way places.  What’s at work here sociologically?

TP: There are economic, political, and logistical factors for why most industrialized slaughterhouses are located in rural places. What I find most interesting is the way these factors also contribute to the continued reproduction of the violence by shielding urban consumers from the realities of what they are eating. Distance itself becomes a valuable commodity.

WP: Even within the slaughter plant, there’s an attempt to hide what’s going on, and to compartmentalize what’s occurring. Why is the design set up this way?

TP: I don't think anyone sat down and said, 'Let's design a slaughtering process that creates a maximal distance between each worker and the violence of killing and allows each worker to contribute to that work without having to confront the violence directly.' Most of the architectural elements of the kill floor, including the extreme compartmentalization of the killing work, is overtly motivated by efficiency and food-safety logics. But what's fascinating is that the effects of these organizations of space and labor are not just increased 'efficiency' or increased 'food-safety' but also the distancing and concealment of violent processes, even from those participating directly in them. From a political point of view, from a point of view interested in understanding how relations of violent domination and exploitation are reproduced, it is precisely these effects that matter most.

Check back tomorrow for part two of my interview with Timothy Pachirat.

****

 

April 26, 2013

Putting An End to Shelter Gas Chambers

 

A couple of weeks ago, I celebrated the closing of the last Mississippi carbon monoxide gas chamber, thanks in large part to the determined efforts of HSUS state director Lydia Sattler. This week we are excited to pass along other success stories – this time the closing of the gas euthanasia chamber at the City of Emporia Animal Shelter in Kansas, and the unanimous passage of a bill in the Texas House today to ban gas chambers in the state. 

Gas chamber being hauled away
Midge Grinstead/The HSUS
After a decade-long battle, the gas chamber at the City
of Emporia Animal Shelter in Kansas is hauled away.

Our Kansas state director, Midge Grinstead, joined with local advocates and they together helped put an end to the use of this archaic practice of gassing companion animals. Midge wept at this image of the chamber finally being removed from the shelter.

Just weeks ago, the Texas Senate took an emphatic step to end gas chambers everywhere in the state (several Texas cities have already banned their use), and today the House affirmed that outcome with a 135–0 vote on the issue. We expect that Governor Rick Perry, who has amassed a strong record of animal protection as the state’s chief executive, will sign the bill in rapid fashion. Amazingly enough, just ten years ago it was still technically legal under Texas law for shelters to kill animals by such methods as drowning, shooting, clubbing or strangling. The very fact that we are so close to an outright ban of gas chambers in Texas is a testament to how far we’ve come.

In the meantime, we continue to encourage, cajole, and pressure individual shelters to remove their chambers once and for all. And next week, Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., (co-chair of the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus) will reintroduce a federal resolution condemning the use of carbon monoxide gas chambers for euthanasia of shelter animals. While we also work to end any killing of healthy, adoptable animals, we must nevertheless ensure that when euthanasia does have to be performed, it is done as humanely as possible. Gas chambers, like the one pictured here, must permanently become a thing of the past.

April 25, 2013

Tennessee Walking Horse Barn Raided, Trainer Charged

The more light that’s shed on the “Big Lick” faction of the Tennessee walking horse industry, the clearer it becomes that Congress must upgrade the original language in the Horse Protection Act to deter the criminal abuse that is inflicted on the horses involved, and to give the federal government the tools it needs to crack down on violators. Newly introduced legislation – the Prevent All Soring Tactics Act – will strengthen the HPA by ending industry self-regulation, fortifying penalties for violations of the law, and expanding its prohibitions to include a ban on mechanical soring tactics, such as the use of stacks and chains on horses’ feet. 

The artificial, high-stepping gait called the 'Big Lick.'
Chad Sisneros
The artificial, high-stepping gait called the "Big Lick."

Despite efforts by the Tennessee legislature to enact an ag-gag measure that would cover up abuses in the walking horse industry (that’s a story in itself), national scrutiny of the Big Lick fraternity continues to reveal widespread abuse. Last week, Tennessee and federal law enforcement officials raided a barn allegedly owned by Big Lick trainer Larry Wheelon. Reportedly, many of the 28 horses found there showed signs of having been treated with caustic substances on their legs and were in extreme pain.

Of course this would make Wheelon the second “superstar” of this industry to be exposed within the last year for cheating and for tormenting animals for a blue ribbon in the show ring. Wheelon has been cited at least 15 times for violations of the Horse Protection Act, but ironically he sits on the ethics committee for the Walking Horse Trainers’ Association, and is a AAA-rated horse show judge. It’s no wonder the horses victimized by soring are consistently rewarded as winners at Big Lick walking horse shows – with judges themselves apparently unwilling to follow the law, why would other trainers comply?

As if this weren’t proof enough that strict legislation is long overdue, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has just released the startling results of foreign substance testing it conducted at horse shows in 2012. The USDA tested show horses for evidence that their trainers or owners were putting illegal soring agents on their horses’ legs to make them step higher in the ring, or numbing or masking agents to hide signs of soring. Whichever illegal substance they use, the only purpose is to hurt a horse so badly that he compensates for the pain by walking with an unnaturally high gait. Of the 478 horses the USDA swabbed for illegal substances, 309 tested positive. That’s 65 percent of horses in random samplings at 2012 horse shows. At the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration, the “Grand Prix” for the Big Lick crowd, 76 percent of the horses randomly sampled tested positive for illegal substances. Imagine if three-quarters of the players in the World Series or the Super Bowl were found guilty of using illegal drugs. This is the corrupt, warped world of Big Lick horse competition – with many practitioners seemingly undeterred by high-profile prosecutions and widespread condemnation of their cruelty.

We’ve documented over and over the cruelty endured by Tennessee walking horses, and we’re continuing to see evidence that the Big Lick faction won’t reform on their own. Please join us in the fight to protect these horses, and open up the industry to those who wish to take part in humane and fairly-judged horse shows: call your representative in the U.S. Congress and urge him or her to cosponsor H.R. 1518. A Senate companion bill should be introduced soon.

April 24, 2013

Ellen Speaks Out on Ag-Gag Bills

For weeks, my colleagues and I have been sounding the alarm about a spreading threat to the animal protection movement nationwide and, more broadly, to transparency and free speech in our society – the introduction by state lawmakers of anti-whistleblower, or so-called ag-gag bills, in about a dozen states. I was in Nashville on Monday for a press conference at the Tennessee State Capitol urging Governor Bill Haslam to veto the Tennessee anti-whistleblower bill that would make it virtually impossible to conduct an undercover investigation at a factory farm or horse stable. And yesterday, I was in Los Angeles for a taping of America’s top daily talk show, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, which will broadcast today and include my interview with Ellen.

Watch Ellen today on your local affiliate, and go to Ellen’s Facebook page to share the interview with friends, family members, and others.

EllenIn the interview, I called on concerned citizens, especially Tennesseans, to contact Governor Haslam to veto this legislation. But I also asked everyone to get engaged in our fight to protect our rights and to understand what’s happening with the industrialization of animal agriculture.

The HSUS does so many things, including working very hard to reveal what’s really happening with animals in our society – even if the supply chains extend thousands of miles from us, and the use of animals is far removed from our daily experience.  We are so disassociated from what happens to animals in some sectors of the economy, and The HSUS is trying to close that gap and to call good people to conscience.  Even if abuse or exploitation happens in a far-off place, we are morally connected to it through the supply chains that sell and distribute food in restaurants, supermarkets, and other retail outlets.

At the end of the interview, Ellen surprised me by letting me know that if 25,000 people share the interview she conducted with me, then The HSUS will receive a $25,000 donation. I love the idea of more people seeing the interview and getting this additional support so we can redouble our efforts to expose cruelty and abuse, so I do hope you’ll spread the word.

April 23, 2013

Majority of Spaniards Say No to Bullfighting

One of the fundamentals of our work is to set standards that make it a crime to engage in malicious cruelty to animals. The nations of the world should have a zero-tolerance policy for the torture of animals, and for specific types of torment like dogfighting, cockfighting and bullfighting. Animal protection efforts tend to get held back in countries where these forms of cruelty are tolerated.

A matador prepares to knife the bull as it lies on the ground bleeding.

Spain has always been viewed as a redoubt of bullfighting. In the face of shrinking foreign tourism and in-country support for bullfighting, Spanish politicians threw bullfighting a lifeline last February by voting in favor of plans to declare it part of Spain's cultural heritage. This plan would allow fight organizers to apply for tax breaks and other financial incentives, could reverse the bans already in place in Catalonia and the Canary Islands, and make it much more difficult to introduce new regional bans in the future.

As the Spanish government debates this proposed new law, an Ipsos MORI public opinion poll, commissioned by Humane Society International, shows that the majority of Spaniards do not approve of public funds being used for this blood sport, and that three-quarters of the population haven’t attended a bullfight in the last five years. Only 29 percent of Spanish people support bullfighting – this represents an amazing turn-around in public opinion, and is a marker of the emerging animal protection ethos throughout the world.

There is a vocal minority of bullfighting enthusiasts whose only defense seems to be that the blood sport is a tradition. This hackneyed line of argument just doesn’t hold up as a defense for any form of animal cruelty.

Every culture has its traditions. Century-old practices remind us who we used to be as a society. Traditions, however, are like the societies that created them – ever evolving, in terms of fairness and justice. In Spain, and in many other countries, popular support for bullfighting is rightfully on the decline, and the Spanish government should embrace this shift in its citizen’s values, and not cling to age-old cruelties.

Love Spain, hate bullfighting? Send a message to the Spanish Embassy >>

April 22, 2013

Celebrate Earth Day by Committing to Conscious Eating

Forty-three years ago to the day, U.S. Sen. Gaylord Nelson founded Earth Day – a day to raise awareness about the environment in the U.S. – and it’s now celebrated internationally in nearly 200 countries. It was a grassroots insurgency, with events in communities throughout the nation producing, in a few short years, a raft of new policies to protect the environment, including the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act.

Meatless Monday infographic
Check out our new Meatless
Monday infographic
.

Today, there remain an array of substantial threats to our environment. But one of the biggest threats that can no longer be sidestepped is industrialized agriculture. Its ripple effects are enormous, having consequences for topsoil, the purity and abundance of water, the health of our atmosphere, and the well-being of all human and animal life. 

About a decade before the first Earth Day, American agriculture began speeding up its slow turn from family-operated, pasture-based systems – with animals on the land, and in numbers that were manageable for the farmer, and for the health of the environment – to an increasingly industrialized process. So began the era of factory farming.

The emergence of factory farming has produced mass suffering for animals, but it’s also been the bane of family farming and rural communities. Within the last 35 years, the nation has seen the loss of 90 percent of its pig farmers, 88 percent of dairy farmers, and 95 percent of egg farmers as they’ve been run out of business. All the while, the remaining farms got bigger and bigger and confined more and more animals per farm.

Within the last decade, we’re finally seeing a robust counter-movement to factory farming, with animal welfare advocates, environmental advocates, and rural community advocates – including family farmers – questioning this broken system of food production and seeking to put animals back on the land.

Over the past several years, citizens and lawmakers in nine states have moved to outlaw various forms of extreme farm animal confinement. Within the last year or so, more than 50 of the nation’s food industry giants have committed to phasing out some of the cruelest practices that factory farms utilize. More people are eating local, and eating more plant-based foods. There is a strong movement in rural communities against Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, or CAFOs. The Global Animal Partnership and other certifiers are working with responsible farmers committed to raising animals under high standards of welfare, and helping them to secure markets.

In the end, it’s pretty clear that there’s just no way we can humanely and sustainably raise nine billion animals for food in the U.S. That’s why we are also urging consumers to eat less meat and other animal products. A number of the nation’s major environmental organizations are encouraging their members, and the public, to skip meat at least one day a week and join the Meatless Monday movement.

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, raising animals for food is responsible for nearly one-fifth of human-induced greenhouse gas emissions, and worldwide, we use more land to raise and feed farm animals than for any other purpose. Furthermore, the farm animal sector is a major consumer of scarce water, accounting for nearly one-third of the global agricultural water use.

Driving less, turning down the lights, and recycling are all enormously important. But so, too, is eating more plant-based foods and supporting sustainable agriculture at all levels. Our diet is something that each one of us controls. By eating with conscience, we can turn this system around, and Earth Day is a great day to make a new commitment, or to renew a commitment, to conscious eating.


Get The HSUS’ Guide to Meat-Free Meals here >>

Watch our Meatless Monday video:

April 19, 2013

Speak Up For Animals

Recently I wrote about two outrageous campaigns against animal protection. In the Michigan legislature, there’s a bill designed to derail our wolf protection referendum, to repeal a 2006 referendum that banned the target shooting of mourning doves, and to cede authority to allow hunting and trapping seasons for any protected species to the seven-member Natural Resources Commission. And just the other day, in Tennessee, an ag-gag bill designed to thwart investigations of, and picture-taking at, horse stables and factory farms was passed by the legislature.

California undercover investigation
The HSUS

In Michigan, we ask you to contact your state legislators and oppose S.B. 288 and H.B. 4552. Today, we released a new television advertisement to air throughout Michigan aimed at drawing public attention to this abuse of power.

In Tennessee, S.B. 1248, the ag-gag bill, is on its way to Governor Bill Haslam’s desk. Please call him today and urge him to veto the bill.

So many of you have sent me comments about this, and I want to share just a few of them:

One thing I know that I can do is withhold my tourist dollars from Tennessee, and I will.
Diane

To me this is taking animal welfare back to the dark ages - who will speak for them now? How can we protect them? Only those who have something to hide would even contemplate this evil law, and those who do should be required to stamp their products with “ag-gag law in place.” We must stop it now as it is gathering momentum and undoing all that the animal activists and organizations have achieved in the past. 
- Valda Purvis 

What a shameful, underhanded way for any kind of so-called lawmaker to represent themselves! I am furious and appalled at the bill that's been introduced to give the seven appointees (hunters & trappers mostly) at the Natural Resources Commission authority to open up hunting season on any species they want, no matter how the people feel! This is an ignorant, careless and oblivious attitude toward God's creations.  In addition, Jackie McConnell is a monster and completely transparent within his greed...how pathetic.
Sally

Blatant disregard for animals, the will of the people and for democracy.
Debbie Johnson

S.B.288 in Michigan's legislature is another attempt to destroy democratic government and hand the law over to a gang of bullies.
Arden Allen

As more and more citizens turn to a humane way to treat animals, our government officials and politicians need to remember that we the people vote for them or not. Let's become a more humane nation!
Doreen Bauer

It is proven every time - if a certain portion of society wants power in government, they run for office. We need to get our people in and we must vote these people out.
Rita De Ferrary

April 18, 2013

Sochi Announces It Will Scuttle Stray Extermination Plan

One comment I often hear from HSUS supporters who have traveled abroad is about the sadness and helplessness they feel when confronted with homeless dogs scavenging for food, or simply pleading for a warm caress. The handling of free-roaming populations of street dogs and cats is a common moral and public health concern of many nations. In the United States, we’ve conducted vaccination, sheltering and rescue programs, but in other parts of the world, it’s not uncommon to see poisoning, shooting and electrocution as a means of "disposing" of unwanted animals.

Bhutan street dog
Kathy Milani/HSI

In the run-up to the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, there was talk of “beautifying” the city by wiping out the domesticated animals. Yesterday, USA Today reported on a similar proposal by organizers of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. We condemned the decision – and today the Black Sea coastal city announced it will abandon its plan to kill more than 2,000 stray dogs and cats. Humane Society International has offered to help Sochi with a humane population control program as an alternative. Our method relies not on building shelters, but on mass sterilization and vaccination of street dogs.

With sufficient resources, we know how to get the job done. Humane Society International has been working in a number of countries to promote and implement such programs. In Bhutan, officials from the Queen Mother to the Leader of the Opposition praised the HSI street dog management program and the Kingdom will be spending its own funds to maintain the operation in the future. Following a visit from Rahul Sehgal, director of HSI Asia, government officials in Mauritius decided to end their street dog culling program and instead implement a sterilization and education program. In India, we are part of a four-organization consortium that received a large grant from the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust to implement a 3-year street dog management and rabies education program in Jamshedpur, the location of the Tata Steel Works. In the Philippines, public health veterinarians are implementing spay/neuter programs after taking the course on humane street dog management presented by HSI staff. 

There may be 300 million street dogs in the world. We must cast aside reckless killing and opt for humane management. We have the technology and the know-how; we just need the resources and the capacity to implement these ideas.

If you would like to join our efforts in helping to protect street dogs around the world, please consider becoming a street dog defender.

Michigan, Tennessee Lawmakers Subvert Democracy, Transparency

In 2006, Michigan voters rejected the legislature’s plan to allow the target shooting of mourning doves, with 69 percent casting ballots in favor of maintaining the state’s century-long standard of protecting these gentle songbirds. Every county in the state – including the most Republican, rural districts – voted against the idea of dove hunting.

Tennessee Walking Horse
The HSUS

Now, in an effort to block a citizen referendum to maintain protection for wolves – one which garnered 253,000 registered voter signatures within a 70 day period – lawmakers have introduced a bill to give the seven political appointees (dominated by hunters and trappers) at the Natural Resources Commission authority to open up hunting seasons for doves, wolves and any other species they wish. Citizens be damned.

It’s a remarkable subversion of democratic decision-making, and it is an abuse of power, albeit a legal one.

In Tennessee, a different type of power play is at work.

There, one of the biggest stories of 2012 was HSUS’ undercover investigation of a Hall of Fame horse trainer named Jackie McConnell abusing Tennessee walking horses, in order to give him an advantage in the show ring. McConnell bashed horses in the head with a wooden plank, applied caustic chemicals to their feet, and otherwise caused them so much pain that they would exaggerate their gait and win McConnell another ribbon.

Newspapers and horse lovers in Tennessee and throughout the nation expressed deep disgust over the barbaric abuse of horses by McConnell and his assistants, and lauded The HSUS for exposing this sickening abuse.

Yesterday, the Tennessee Senate passed an ag-gag bill to prevent us from ever finding another Jackie McConnell in Tennessee. Rather than crack down on abuse, the legislature is seeking to make it a crime to conduct a long-term investigation of abuse at any farm – for horses, puppy mills, or farm animals.

The state’s largest paper, The Tennessean, wrote today, “It’s clear to anyone to [sic] looks at how the Humane Society videotaped Jackie McConnell’s soring of walking horses, that the case would have unraveled if it had to be rushed, at risk to the safety of the person working undercover. This bill is no more than an attempt to intimidate animal-cruelty opponents.”

The bill’s authors, one an industrial pig farmer and the other a livestock auction owner, say they oppose animal cruelty. But that’s laughable. They’ve both been on the record as opposing the most modest animal welfare reforms. For instance, Sen. Dolores Gresham, R-Somerville, voted against legislation just two weeks ago that would increase penalties for cockfighting.

The only antidote to this kind of abuse is public participation. No lawmaker or legislature should get away with these manipulations of the fundamentals of a civil society, including First Amendment freedoms and democratic decision-making.