State 'Ag-Gag' Laws Spreading, Protect Misdeeds from Scrutiny

May 22, 2013

After a Tennessee governor's veto, proponents of "ag-gag" legislation vowed to try again in that state next year. Bills criminalizing the collection of information about abuses in livestock operations are still being pushed in other states — and the mechanism may be extended to stifle reporting on other environmental abuses.

At least 5 states have enacted some form of "ag-gag" legislation, designed to discourage activists and journalists from documenting cruelty to farm animals raised for food. More than half a dozen other states are considering them. Such bills might typically criminalize omission of an activist's organizational affiliation on a job application — making undercover investigations impossible. Some require immediate reporting of any observed abuse — preventing longer-term investigations of chronic animal abuse.

Now it seems such laws may be used to suppress reporting on "fracking" (oil and gas production using hydraulic fracturing), at least in Pennsylvania, because it often occurs on leased farmlands.