By Karen L. Hudson
Industrial livestock industry advocates have once again delivered an attempt to “GAG” the public and hide incidents that occur behind the doors of factory farms in Illinois. A similar bill was introduced in 2012 and faced widespread opposition across the state resulting in it being tabled. Now, a new Senate Bill (SB1532*), introduced by Senator Chapin Rose, is vague in its language and may also be meant to include neighbors of CAFOs who witness acts of abuse and/or environmental violations.
SB1532 would amend the Humane Care for Animals Act so that any law enforcement officer, animal control office, the Department of Agriculture or an approved humane investigator can determine if a complaint made under the act is “knowingly false,” “not made in good faith,” and is made with the “intent to harass the person or entity.” On making such a determination, the Department could waive the confidentiality of the complainant and refer the matter to the State’s Attorney for consideration of criminal charges against the complainant. If passed, this misguided law would have a chilling effect on the reporting of viable abuse claims because of fear of retribution and criminal charges.
While the bill was recently amended in the Senate Criminal Committee as described above, the Illinois Citizens for Clean Air & Water (ICCAW) remain opposed. Despite the revised language, our position is that the bill continues to bear the attributes of an “ag-gag” bill, which we cannot support.
ICCAW believes SB 1532 will have a chilling effect on the filing of viable citizen complaints against large-scale industrial livestock operations due to the fear of retaliation, especially since it allows the Illinois Department of Agriculture equal oversight and ability of removing confidentiality of the complainant and referral to the Attorney General for criminal charges. “We oppose any legislation that will allow confidentiality of whistleblowers to be lifted by entities such as the Illinois Department of Agriculture,” said Karen Hudson, a farmer and member of ICCAW.
*Link to full Bill text and status: http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/BillStatus.asp?DocNum=1532&GAID=12&DocType-ID=SB&LegID=72296&SessionID=85&Spec-Sess=&Session=%3E&GA=98
The Illinois Citizens for Clean Air and Water (ICCAW) is a statewide coalition of family farmers and community groups advocating for sound policies and practices that protect the environment, human health, and rural quality of life from the impacts of large-scale, industrialized livestock production facilities in Illinois. A majority of its members are family farmers and rural residents that live near large-scale livestock facilities who have been adversely impacted by the problems they create. For more information, please visit: www.iccaw.org.
From the April 10-16, 2013, issue