Animal-rights groups blast N.H. bill to require reporting of livestock abuse
Six animal-rights groups have come out against a bill at the State House that would require anybody who records farm animals being abused to report it to the police within 24 hours and turn over their evidence.
Hudson Republican Rep. Bob Haefner, the bill’s prime sponsor, said he has two goals: to halt abuse by getting the police involved at once, and to discourage advocacy groups from using videos or photos of abuse to score political points.
“There has been a history from the animal-rights groups across the country — and we haven’t had any in New Hampshire, fortunately, and we want to make sure we don’t have any – where they will go in undercover, . . . they will record the abuse, never inform law enforcement, hold on to those tapes and wait for a politically opportune time to release them,” Haefner said. “And they usually first show up on television somewhere.”
But the six groups, including the Humane Society of the United States and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, argue the bill would punish whistleblowers and suppress evidence of abusive conditions on industrial farms.
“This bill is un-American and a broad government overreach,” said Nathan Runkle, executive director of Mercy For Animals, in a statement. “It seeks to shield animal abusers from public scrutiny and prosecute the brave whistleblowers who dare to speak out against animal cruelty, environmental pollution and corporate corruption.”
Haefner’s bill, HB 110, has bipartisan support. It’s cosponsored by two Democratic representatives, Majority Leader Steve Shurtleff of Penacook and Rep. Tara Sad of Walpole, as well as two Republican senators, Sens. Sharon Carson of Londonderry and Bob Odell of Lempster.
The bill would require “any person who records” abuse of livestock to “report such activities to law enforcement authorities” and to “submit any unedited photographs or video recordings to the law enforcement authorities within 24 hours of the recording’s creation.”
Haefner said he interprets that to mean the person should turn over the original recordings, but “if the lawyers tell me a copy is fine, I’m okay with that.”
The bill has a public hearing today at 10 a.m. before the House Environment and Agriculture Committee. Sad, one of the cosponsors, chairs the committee.
Animal-rights activists will be there to testify against the bill, and they branded it an “ag-gag” law in a news release yesterday. In addition to the Humane Society and the ASPCA, the opponents include Farm Sanctuary, Mercy For Animals, Compassion Over Killing and the Animal Legal Defense Fund.
Bill Ketzer, the ASPCA’s senior director of government relations for the Northeast, said such bills “are an obvious attempt to conceal information and prevent the outrage that rightfully erupts when the public finds out about poor animal welfare on farms. They threaten farm animals by interfering with the very people in a position to document their abuse.”
The New Hampshire bill is modeled on a Missouri law enacted last year, Haefner said. He said similar legislation also passed last year in Iowa and Utah.
(Ben Leubsdorf can be reached at 369-3307 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BenLeubsdorf.)