For Immediate Release:
February 18, 2014
Moira Colley 202-483-7382
Boise— – Following the passage of a controversial “ag-gag” bill in Idaho’s state Senate, national Republican political consultant Mary Matalin just sent an urgent video appeal to GOP members of Idaho’s House of Representatives urging them to oppose the legislation when it comes up for a vote as soon as this week. If passed, Idaho Senate Bill (S.B.) 1337 would criminalize undercover investigations of cruelty to farmed animals in one of the country’s top dairy-producing states. In the video and accompanying letter (below), Matalin, a self-professed meat-eater, points out that undercover investigations help officials enforce animal welfare laws, and she adds that bills similar to S.B. 1337 in Florida, Missouri, and her home state of Illinois have all failed. Two of these “ag-gag” bills—in Indiana and New Hampshire—have already died this year.
“This year’s bill in Idaho has already drawn severe criticism,” Matalin writes, “and editorial boards in Indiana, Tennessee, Wyoming, and other states have universally condemned these bills as tarnishing agriculture’s image by making it appear as though the industry has illegal activity to hide.”
PETA has worked hand in hand with law-enforcement officials to achieve convictions in states such as North Carolina, West Virginia, and Iowa—where an undercover case resulted in the filing of 22 cruelty charges against workers at a supplier to Hormel Foods. As Matalin’s letter states, investigations such as PETA’s are often “the only tool holding employees accountable to existing cruelty laws,” as illustrated by this recent case in Mississippi.
Matalin’s letter follows:
Greetings! I understand that Senate Bill 1337, which would block undercover investigations on factory farms, has been fast-tracked through the legislature. Before you vote on it, I’d like to invite you to watch this three-minute video that I filmed for PETA on the issue.
As my video outlines, investigations are often the only tool holding employees accountable to existing cruelty laws, as there are no government inspections of farms, and management may be unresponsive to reports of abuse. For example, PETA’s investigation of a Pennsylvania dairy farm revealed that the owners were electro-shocking and kicking cows and resulted in the filing of criminal charges. Last year, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam vetoed a similar bill after the attorney general stated that it could “constitute an unconstitutional burden on news gathering,” and another similar bill was deemed unconstitutional by an Indiana University law professor. This year’s bill in Idaho has already drawn severe criticism, and editorial boards in Indiana, Tennessee, Wyoming, and other states have universally condemned these bills as tarnishing agriculture’s image by making it appear as though the industry has illegal activity to hide. Such bills have died in more than a dozen states, including Arkansas, Florida, Minnesota, and North Carolina.
I hope you’ll oppose the bill after watching the video and seeing how closely law enforcement works with cruelty investigators to enforce anti-cruelty laws. Thank you for your time and attention to this urgent matter.