What is Ag Gag?
“Ag-gag” laws short for agricultural gag, and refers to laws aimed at stopping the flow of information on how animals are treated in animal agriculture. These laws have been sweeping North America; in the U.S, ag-gag laws are being passed at a State level, and in Canada at a provincial level. Ag-gag laws prevent animal advocates, journalists and employees from revealing truthful information on the conditions faced by animals on farms, in slaughterhouses, and in transit by making it a crime to take photos or videos of these facilities.
Ag-gag laws were devised and implemented as a direct result of whistleblower exposés revealing these cruel conditions. Some agriculture industry groups encouraged their government to protect their economic interests and introduce ag-gag laws to conceal what is happening in animal agriculture.
Ag-Gag Laws Hide Public Health Risks
It has become apparent that COVID-19 is a zoonotic disease – one that originated with animals and transferred to humans, making this pandemic the most recent example of how the consumption, farming and capture of animals can work against humanity in ways we never imagined. Under each state’s ag-gag bill or law, animal cruelty, food safety, labor and environmental violations will go unreported and shielded from public scrutiny, thereby magnifying the risk of zoonotic disease and more.
The Current Fight Against Ag-Gag
There has been a surge of ag-gag bills passed across North America. Ag-gag laws are constantly before the courts and changing; court battles are being waged to overturn ag-gag laws under grounds they are unconstitutional and violate Freedom of Speech. The oldest ag-gag law in the United States was passed in Kansas in 1990; this law was overturned in 2020. An ag-gag law in Arkansas is currently being challenged. Groups that challenge ag-gag laws include animal and human rights groups, labour unions, and journalist associations.
LCA is fighting back by monitoring pending ag-gag legislation and campaigning against new ag-gag bills as they arise.
Canada, 2021 – Bill C205 is an amendment to the Health of Animals Act. This federal ag-gag law could make it an offence to enter, without lawful authority or excuse, a place in which animals are kept if doing so could result in the exposure of the animals to a disease or toxic substance that is capable of affecting or contaminating them. Penalties range from imprisonment of upto 2 years with fines of up to $250,000 for individuals and $500,000 for organizations are imposed.
Ontario, 2020 – LCA campaigned heavily against Bill 156, an ag-gag law introduced in 2019. LCA’s legal counsel testified before the Ontario Legislature; released poll results that proved transparency in agriculture is important to Ontarians; wrote an op-ed that was published across Canada; and held a joint press conference with other animal rights groups to present footage of conditions discovered through undercover investigations into animal agriculture. Although Bill 156 passed, LCA is working to repeal this dangerous law.
Arkansas, 2015 – LCA successfully defeated Arkansas Bill HB 1774, which would have banned audio recording between anyone in an employment relationship unless all parties consented. After LCA exposed the ag-gag bill via media and a petition, HB 1774 died quietly in committee. Unfortunately, Arkansas passed an ag-gag law in 2017.
Missouri, 2016 – LCA fought Missouri Bill HB 1414, which would have worsened an existing ag-gag bill by creating an “information blackout” for factory farms and puppy mills — blocking the public from learning about animal cruelty, toxic pollution and human health hazards like infectious diseases. Tens of thousands of people signed LCA’s petition against HB 1414, and on July 8, 2016, Governor Jay Nixon vetoed the dangerous bill.
Texas, 2019 – Possible Reintroduction 2021 – Freedom-crushing ag-gag Bill SB 1884 is officially dead after not being heard on the House floor. Legislators had until midnight on Tuesday, May 21, 2019, to vote on the bill; however, the bill was not brought up for a vote. Since it was the last day of the legislative session, the bill cannot be heard until the next legislative session and will be dead until 2021.
Existing Ag-Gag Laws Across North America (Updated February 2021)
Alberta – Alberta passed Bill 27, Trespass Statues (Protecting Law Abiding Property Owners) Amendment Act in 2019 and became the first province in Canada to enact an ag-gag law. Bill 27 prohibits whistleblowers from obtaining access to property through false pretences and is punishable by fines of $10,000 for a first offence and $25,000 for subsequent offences. Groups facilitating whistleblowers could be punished with fines of up to $200,000.
Ontario – Ontario’s ag-gag Bill 156, Security from Trespass and Food Safety Act was enacted in 2020 and, similar to Alberta’s ag-gag law, punishes whistleblowers who obtain employment under false pretences. Whistleblowers can be fined $15,000 for a first offence and upto $25,000 for subsequent offences.
Prince Edward Island – In 2020, Prince Edward Island passed two ag-gag type laws with amendments to the province’s Animal Health Act. Bill 120 imposes fines and jail time on any persons or companies that expose animals to toxic substances and Bill 124 rewards gratuities to farmers of animals who are released or have escaped by unauthorized entry.
Alabama – The Farm Animal, Crop, and Research Facilities Protection Act was passed in 2002 and prohibits anyone from possessing records that were obtained by way of deception and accessing property under “false pretenses.”
Arkansas – Passed HB 1665, “An Act to Create a Cause of Action for Unauthorized Access to Another Person’s Property; and for Other Purposes” in 2017. HB 1665 allows employers to sue whistleblowers who uncover crimes.
Iowa – After two previous ag-gag laws had been struck down as unconstitutional, Iowa passed it’s third ag-gag law, SF 2413, in June 2019, prohibiting “agricultural production facility trespass” and allowing for the prosecution of people that use deception to gain access to agricultural facilities.
Missouri – State Bill 631 – R.S.Mo. 578.013 “Duty to submit videotape evidence of animal abuse or neglect” was signed into law in 2012. This quick-reporting bill mandates that recordings depicting farm animal abuse or neglect must be submitted to law enforcement within twenty-four hours of the recording.
Montana – The Farm Animal and Research Facilities Protection Act was passed in 1991 and prohibits the unauthorized entering into an animal facility to take pictures by photograph, video camera, or other means with intent to commit criminal defamation.
North Dakota – The Animal Research Facility Damage Act was passed in 1991 and makes it a Class B misdemeanor to enter an animal facility and use or attempt to use a camera, video recorder, or any other video or audio recording device. Violators face a jail term of 30 days.
How You Can Fight Ag-Gag Laws
2) Sign up for LCA’s email alerts to stay up-to-date with ag-gag.
3) Voice your stance against ag-gag by contacting decision makers in states and provinces where the bills are pending or have passed. Let them know that the legislation is unconstitutional. Find your state’s representatives by typing in your home address at www.votesmart.org. They will be located under the State Legislative tab. In Canada, contact your Member of Provincial Parliament and provincial Minister of Agriculture.
4) Need help? Email firstname.lastname@example.org to learn what you can do.
About Last Chance for Animals
Last Chance for Animals (LCA) is an international, non-profit organization dedicated to eliminating animal exploitation through education, investigations, legislation, and media attention. LCA believes that animals are highly sentient creatures who exist for their own reasons independent of their service to humans; they should not be made to suffer for the latter. LCA opposes the use of animals in food and clothing production, scientific experimentation, and entertainment and promotes a cruelty-free lifestyle and the ascription of rights to non-human beings.
LCA is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, incorporated in the State of California in 1985, EIN #95-4013155.