Update: Unfortunately North Carolina Republicans kowtowed to the state’s factory farms and voted today to override the governor and pass HB 405 into law. This law turns whistleblowers into criminals, while protecting corporations and people who do terrible things to animals and even vulnerable people. Today’s vote is a loss, but we are winning the larger battle to end factory farming, as last week’s announcement from Walmart proves. Thank you to all of you who called the governor’s office to secure his veto. We will look at all of our legal options at this point.
The important victory for North Carolina’s animals I told you about on Friday is now in jeopardy. Some lawmakers, at the behest of poultry producers and their lobbyists, are pushing to override Gov. Pat McCrory’s veto of HB 405 — an ag-gag bill that would allow unscrupulous employers to sue employees who reveal cruelty in puppy mills and factory farms. The measure is so far-reaching that it would also lead to retaliatory lawsuits against whistleblowers at nursing homes, daycare centers, and other workplaces. It’s that latitude in its provisions that has prompted the AARP, the Wounded Warrior Project, the N.C. Council for Women, and the Domestic Violence Commission, among other groups, to add their voices against the bill.
The proponents of ag-gag need a two-thirds majority in both chambers to override the governor. The HSUS is encouraging North Carolina residents to call House Speaker Tim Moore and Majority Leader Mike Hager and politely ask them to not allow a vote on the anti-whistleblower ag-gag bill, HB 405. We also are running full-page ads in their local newspapers this morning. We’re also glad to have NASCAR driver Leilani Munter, a resident of Charlotte, N.C., lobbying on The HSUS’s behalf at the statehouse today, calling for legislators to stand down and accept the veto.
Remember that lawmakers in nearly two dozen states have introduced varying versions of ag-gag bills in their states in the last two years. Only one – a measure in Idaho – has been enacted, and it is the subject now of a legal challenge. There is a reason so many of these bills have failed: they are bad policy, and their effect would be to close the curtain on obvious forms of cruelty and to place whistleblowers at legal peril, while protecting perpetrators of abuse.
Tens of thousands of compassionate North Carolinians have already spoken out against this bill, as have the state’s leading newspapers:
- The Charlotte Observer: “One would think that lawmakers would clamp down on illegal activity at businesses. Instead, they are clamping down on those who would expose it.”
- News & Record, Greensboro: “Repeated investigations by animal-rights groups seem to find that problems exist. Allowing punishment for those who expose bad practices is not the solution.”
- Fayetteville Observer: “Do we really want to give unscrupulous businesses extra protection? This bill richly deserves the governor’s veto pen.”
- The News & Observer, Raleigh: “This bill responds to no need other than to protect businesses that should be embarrassed by their activities from being embarrassed. It would protect the strong from the helpless.
- The Pilot, Moore County: “The N.C. General Assembly was wrong to pass the so-called “ag-gag bill” in the first place, and Gov. Pat McCrory was fully justified in vetoing it.”
North Carolina’s ag-gag bill is not just bad policy but also an affront to the principles of transparency and responsible conduct in the workplace. The state’s lawmakers have a choice: bow to the lobbyists who tell us to put complete trust in every business to always do the right thing, or maintain the existing set of rules that do not criminalize documenting cruel or even illegal behavior when it’s sniffed out. The veto should be sustained.