North Carolina has been the stage for the largest number of HSUS deployments with law enforcement to rescue dogs from squalid, overcrowded puppy mills. In the last four years, we’ve conducted 20 puppy mill raids, partnering with dedicated local animal welfare organizations, and reminding citizens and lawmakers that there’s a serious problem in the Tarheel State. The documentation we’ve amassed makes an incontrovertible case that the state must reform its ways to prevent these abuses from continuing.
Yet even with all of this evidence – and all of this expense to The HSUS and to local law enforcement agencies – lawmakers have failed to enact common-sense legislation to crack down on this widespread cruelty and neglect. So many other states have, but not North Carolina.
Instead, last night the Senate gave final approval to a bill – a cleverly disguised ag-gag measure – that will make it much harder to document animal abuse and other problems at puppy mills and factory farms.
That bill, H.B. 405, is headed to Governor Pat McCrory’s desk, and he’s the only backstop the animals now have, given that the House approved an identical bill last month. Gov. McCrory, who has himself spoken out against puppy mills and called on the legislature to deal with this scourge, has 10 days to take action. He should veto this overreaching, dangerous, detrimental bill, as Arizona Governor Doug Ducey did with a modified ag-gag bill in his state recently and Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam did two years ago.
Those pushing H.B. 405 include the North Carolina Farm Bureau, the Poultry Federation, and the Chamber of Commerce – all with the agenda of stopping whistleblowers from uncovering abuse. Last year, these three groups shelled out a combined sum of $300,000 in donations for candidates. The bill itself is so broad that it would allow any employer to sue any employee who blows the whistle – whether at a daycare center, a home for the elderly, or a factory farm. During the Senate discussion of the bill last night, Senator Josh Stein of Raleigh expressed it as it is: “The public will be worse off as a result of this bill.” He couldn’t be more right.
In addition to being a major puppy mill state, North Carolina is the number two turkey-producing state and the number two pig-producing state. This bill is an attempt by Big Ag to flex its muscle and close the curtain to veil cruel factory farming practices in the state.
Last year a supplier for a major North Carolina poultry company was exposed for burying chickens alive in mass graves. Another recent investigation showed employees at a North Carolina Butterball facility kicking and stomping on birds, dragging them by their wings and necks, slamming them into transport crates, and leaving them to suffer from serious untreated injuries.
Last night’s vote comes just days after an investigation by Compassion Over Killing uncovered despicable cruelty at a North Carolina chicken slaughter plant. That investigation, among other abuses, documented workers punching, pushing, and shoving birds hanging upside down in shackles, and throwing sick and injured birds into piles of dead birds, like garbage. It’s not hard to see why the poultry industry supports H.B. 405: they don’t want consumers to learn about such cruel abuses.
By choosing to veto this ag-gag bill, Gov. McCrory will be in good company with other forward-thinking Republican governors. More importantly, he’ll be standing up for anti-cruelty, transparency, and good-government principles. If you live in North Carolina, or have friends and family who do, please call him and politely ask him to veto H.B. 405. Or contact our Farm Animal Protection team to ask how you can help.