The Tennessee House voted in favor of a bill that would require anyone who shoots video or takes pictures of animal cruelty to submit those images to law enforcement within 48 hours. UPDATE: The Senate has now also passed the bill.
Known as the "Ag Gag" bill, it was one of many being considered by state governments across the country. Proponents of the bill, which was heavily favored by animal agriculture lobbyists, claim the requirement to turn over cruelty images protects animals.
But the bill's critics, which includes the Humane Society of the United States and the Humane Tennessee Political Action Committee, claim the legislation is designed to prevent thorough investigations of animal cruelty. Many undercover cruelty investigations at factory farms can take several weeks of documenting footage, and such bills would prevent animal activists from carrying out those investigations.
The bill was one vote shy of being voted down.
East Tennessee's Knoxville News Sentinel is taking a brave stance against the bill. In an opinion column written before the bill's passage, the paper states, "If the Ag Gag bill happens to pass and the News Sentinel records images of animal cruelty, we will not consider ourselves bound to turn those images over to law enforcement. We will assume that the [state's] shield law, and more importantly, the First Amendment, will pre-empt such a law. I'd recommend that anyone else who believes in freedom of expression take the same position, too."
Flyer editor Bruce VanWyngarden has more on the First Amendment implications of "Ag Gag."