Letter From the Editor 

On April 18th, the Tennessee House and Senate passed what's been termed the "ag gag" bill. This piece of legislative flimflammery requires that anyone who takes video or photos of animal abuse must turn over said photographs or video to law enforcement within 48 hours.

Proponents of the law say it's designed to help prevent animal cruelty, but this is pure horse puckey. The law, identical to those proposed in many other states, is the brainchild of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a right-wing, corporate-funded outfit that's helpfully writing corporate-cuddly legislation for GOP legislators all over the country.

The real purpose of the law is to stifle investigations of corporate food-factory animal abuse or cruel and unhealthy conditions for animals being bred or trained for sale. It might better be termed a "First Amendment gag" law, since it's intended to deter activist organizations and the media from reporting on offensive or illegal practices.

It's beyond absurd. What if ALEC next decides we shouldn't have anyone reporting on corporate pollution (not that far-fetched an idea)? They could write a law stating that all video and photos of polluted streams and illegal landfills and belching smokestacks must be turned over to law enforcement within 48 hours. I honestly think many of the simpletons in the Tennessee legislature would jump on board.

It's a textbook example of what's gone wrong with our governing process. It's become a top-down process driven by special interests, not the will of the people. There was absolutely no public demand for this law. None. In fact, I would wager that, if surveyed, the great majority of Tennesseans would say they didn't want it. The only ones behind this bill are corporate lobbyists. And our legislators dance to their tune like puppets on a string.

I don't believe the law as written would stand up in court, and the Knoxville News Sentinel has already declared that it would ignore the law — as would the Flyer. But, if passed, the law could — as it was no doubt intended to do — deter some media outlets, activist groups, and individuals without the money or fortitude to take such a case to trial.

The "ag gag" bill has been sent to Governor Haslam to sign. It only passed by a bare majority in the House, and if Haslam vetoes it, the veto might even be sustainable. Will he do the right thing? As of this writing, he was still undecided, his usual default status on anything controversial.

The Tennessee legislature is all about protecting the Second Amendment and the right for citizens to bear arms. The First Amendment and the right to bear cameras? Not so much, apparently.

Bruce VanWyngarden
brucev@memphisflyer.com

Comments (26)

Showing 1-25 of 26

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-25 of 26

Add a comment

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Blogs

News Blog

Pence Cancels Memphis Visit

Fly On The Wall Blog

MAF Has a New Meaning: Memphis Ass Farm

News Blog

Alexander to TVA: Don't Buy Wind Power

Intermission Impossible

Hattiloo Announces Season 12: August Wilson, Lynn Nottage, Soul Train...

News Blog

Memphis Theological Seminary Stands with Refugees

News Blog

Fight Over Forrest Statue Isn't Over

ADVERTISEMENT

More by Bruce VanWyngarden

Readers also liked…

  • Vendor in the Grass

    The lady doth protest too much, methinks. — William Shakespeare

    Is there such a thing as "bad activism"? I'm asking because I'm seeing a lot of criticism of the folks who are protesting the Memphis Zoo's encroachment onto the Greensward at Overton Park.

    • Mar 31, 2016
  • Serious Christians

    What is the picture on your computer's desktop screen? Your kids? Your dog? Maybe a memorable vacation photo? Mine is a shot I took one October morning in 2012 as I was about to wade into the Little Red River. A mist is coming off the water, lit golden by a rising sun. The streamside trees are glowing yellow and red and that pale, dry green that says autumn is here. The photo captures everything I like about being on a stream. I put it on my computer so I'd see it each morning when I began to work — a reminder of the beauty that's so easy to lose sight of in the hustle of everyday life ...
    • Oct 8, 2015
  • New Union Ave. Kroger to Open in Germantown

    • Oct 21, 2015
ADVERTISEMENT
© 1996-2017

Contemporary Media
460 Tennessee Street, 2nd Floor | Memphis, TN 38103
Visit our other sites: Memphis Magazine | Memphis Parent | Inside Memphis Business
Powered by Foundation