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Editorial: Bill protects animal abusers
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Editorial: Bill protects animal abusers

White feathers are stained with blood. Faceless workers throw turkeys to the ground, slam them into the sides of metal cages and drag them by their necks.

The hidden-camera video captured at a Butterball factory farm outside Shannon shows birds bleeding from open sores and scar tissue lining empty eye sockets.

Undercover investigators from the nonprofit group Mercy for Animals took jobs at the turkey farm in order to document the shocking and sickening abuse in November 2011. If a few misguided state senators have their way, the animal abusers would be shielded and those who document the abuse would be branded lawbreakers.

Senate Bill 648 seeks to punish those who "make false statements or representations or fail to disclose requested information as part of an employment application” in order to make video or audio recordings or access and duplicate company records.

Those guilty of "employment fraud,” a new crime the bill seeks to create, face a $10,000 fine for a first offense and a $50,000 fine for subsequent offenses.

In a cringeworthy example of Orwellian newspeak, SB 648 is titled the N.C. Commerce Protection Act. Its opponents have given it a catchier moniker — the ag-gag bill, since it amounts to a government gag order on agricultural whistleblowers.

Not only does SB 648 put undercover investigators in the crosshairs, it actually would protect animal abusers from prosecution for the crimes that advocates capture on tape.

"No confidential information or any other information obtained from a recording turned over to local law enforcement…shall be admissible in any criminal proceeding,” the bill states, "…nor shall it be used to initiate or facilitate the prosecution of an offense under this section.”

Last month, the fifth Butterball turkey farm employee pleaded guilty to animal abuse charges in Hoke County. If SB 648 had been law in 2011, the turkey torturers would face no legal consequences and the workers who filmed them would face stiff fines.

The high-dollar penalties function as a powerful deterrent to would-be whistleblowers who otherwise might record and expose animal abuse. SB 648 is a serious threat to free-speech rights that likely violates the First Amendment.

Whether it’s OK to leave employment with an advocacy group off a job application in order to document abuse is a moral and ethical question best left to the individual conscience. It should not be a matter of state law.

The Supreme Court struck down a federal law making it a crime to lie about receiving military medals in June 2012, finding that exaggerations, embellishments and even bald-faced whoppers often enjoy constitutional protection. We believe the courts would take a dim view of North Carolina lawmakers punishing lies of omission between private parties.

Sen. Brent Jackson, an Autryville Republican, introduced the bill along with Sens. Wesley Meredith, R-Fayetteville, Jim Davis, R-Franklin, and Jerry Tillman, R-Archdale. While SB 648 is a Republican-backed bill, it is by no means conservative. This measure seeks to expand government’s role in North Carolinians’ work lives and further entangles the state in private employer-employee relationships to advance questionable interests of secrecy.

Executives who believe an undercover investigation resulted in a false portrayal of their companies or revealed trade secrets already have recourse through the civil court system. If a zealous whistleblower’s actions have caused undue harm, a jury can decide to award damages.

Most firms, we suspect, are reluctant to sue because doing so could backfire in a big way. Animal abusers engender little sympathy, and taking someone to court for exposing wrongdoing could cause a consumer backlash. Companies must weigh the necessity of a lawsuit against the potential for bad publicity. That’s as it should be.

Instead, powerful industries want state government to do their dirty work for them by going after the folks who shine a light on inhumane and illegal animal abuse.

A coalition of diverse groups with disparate causes has formed to fight North Carolina’s ag-gag bill. They include the Humane Society of the United States, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the N.C. Justice Center, American Civil Liberties Union and Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.

We believe the ag-gag bill is bad public policy that seeks to punish the innocent and protect the guilty. We hope state lawmakers turn their back on it.
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OHMYGOSH said...

What happened to my previous OHMYGOSH comments? Do they have too much truth about HSUS and ASPCA? HSUS, MFA and ASPCA are all vegan animal rights (ARs) groups out of Chicago, DC and NY. They are all motivated by the belief that "any human contact with any animal, for any domesticated purpose, equals animal abuse--including our food, service and companion animals industries". They are anti-domestication of any animal, period. With their opposition to SB 648 these ARs advocates are trying convince us that the means justifies the end or 1 lie + 1 lie = a truth. NEVER and NC meat eater should never bite that apple. If you question the accuracy of any of my previous comments--I will gladly debate them, off-line, with you in exchange for the chance to look at the flaws/errors of your editorial. Did the W-T get any of the $50,000 that the most radical,vicious and deceptive animal rights group in America, HSUS, is spending in NC trying to kill SB 648? The people of NC need to hear the "rest-of-the-story"--so they can make informed decisions.

Sunday, June 02, 2013 at 2:14 PM
OHMYGOSH said...

The W-T editorial misses the point. When a vegan animal rights mole lies and withholds background information on a job application for the purpose of getting on a property for sabotage purposes--it equals "breaking-and-entering" to steal and do harm. The ARs moles are there to steal, vandalize, blackmail, sabotage and do anything else possible to harm the business' bottom-line and trade brand and create bad press. Remember MFA tried it again at Thanksgiving in 2012--but failed. The Butterball facility in the Thanksgiving 2011 mole venture involved a "TOM" facility where turkey semen is collected for AI breeding Butterball had just bought the facility from Tar Heel a few weeks earlier. You should know that 40-50 lb tom turkeys will fight like roosters--but more fierce and bloody. At Thanksgiving, MFA's motive was obvious.
Animal producers do not/should not have an "open door" policy. Only creditable employees and Vets are supposed to be there to do a job they were hired to do. To prevent the spread of disease-the workers are supposed to shower, change clothes and boots between going to other facilities. Feed and transport trucks are cleaned between uses.
My neighbor raises turkeys and I raise beef cattle. We are good friends, attend church together and will help each other any way we can--BUT it is well understood that I am to stay out of his turkey houses and he out of my cow pastures.
The illegal moles could care less about the disease they bring on contaminated shoes and clothing. The more problems the more bad press--which will bring them a fatter paycheck and more praises from their ARs bosses in Chicago, DC and NY.
Producers need the protection of SB 648, so they can be assured they are providing consumers with a safe, top quality meat product.
One more point. Several years ago, a labor union was trying to blackmail Food Lion into unionizing. ABC or someone hired a mole that lied on her application form in order to get a job in a FL meat market. The woman had a camera hid in her hair. The sabotage venture backfired and a jury awarded FL a $5.5 million dollar settlement. That is the way it should be and that is exactly what SB 648 is all about.
People that lie, cheat and steal on a job application form have no integrity and are not creditable. In their efforts to kill SB 648--the ARs advocates are saying "two wrongs make it right". With their lies, these ARs moles are liars/crooks from the beginning and should be punished as criminals. Chief Angel Tess once said on "Touched by An Angel", "You can't take a crooked stick and make anything straight out of it". Amen!
When the most vicious rabid ARs HSUS CEO out DC--dumps $50,000 into NC in an attempt defeat SB 648--NC meat eaters need to know SB 648 needs to become law, ASAP.

Saturday, June 01, 2013 at 4:25 PM
Feda Bain said...

You know Senator Buck Newton will be part of this mischief.

Saturday, June 01, 2013 at 12:12 PM
Employers said...

Have a right to know the mindset of the individuals they will be paying with their money for work performed. They have every right to know this as it goes directly to the job performance of the on to be hired. Leaving this out intentionally or making it a "conscious" choice of the applicant undermines a companies business model. The fine levied is likely too low, as it amounts to securing employment under false pretenses. It closely fits certain elements of a similarly named criminal offense.
It boils down to the fact that employees would be at-will employees and should be subject to full disclosure. It does not prohibit form someone working there to report abuses or perceived abuses by legitimate employees. There is a difference between obtaining employment under false pretenses and infiltration of agencies, etc. where one does not get or receive a benefit from that agency as an employee does. Editorial misses it on the legal and conscientious aspects. Just an opinion. Enjoy the reads and the debates. Thanks for the forum to do so.

Friday, May 31, 2013 at 2:15 PM
citizen said...

I have not eaten Turkey or Chicken since Nov.11

Friday, May 31, 2013 at 11:14 AM
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