Legislature needs to stop anti-whistleblower legislation in its tracks

2013-02-14T00:00:00Z 2013-04-11T17:35:18Z Legislature needs to stop anti-whistleblower legislation in its tracks Casper Star-Tribune Online
February 14, 2013 12:00 am

In response to last year's undercover videotaping of a Wheatland hog farm,which rightfully sickened and outraged the public, state Rep. Sue Wallis, R-Recluse, drafted legislation which would outlaw the type of undercover investigation that led to arrests in the case.

Seriously.

An anonymous tip led to an undercover investigation by the Humane Society of the United States last Spring, which included video recordings of hogs being kicked, and piglets being tossed. A subsequent investigation by the Wyoming Livestock Board uncovered numerous harrowing incidents.

Among them:

-- Workers cut off the testicles of piglets and fed them to their sow.

-- A woman worker who weighed more than 200 pounds sat on a sow that couldn't walk because of a broken leg and was screaming in agony.

-- Workers throwing piglets as if they were balls.

-- Keeping pigs in crates so small, the animals were nearly immobilized and helpless.

-- A sow with a prolapsed uterus that was left to die slowly after a worker botched an attempt to pull her piglets from her uterus.

Leana Stormont, investigative counsel for the Humane Society, described a "culture of cruelty" at the hog farm.

In December, the Platte County attorney's office charged nine employees a total of 29 counts of animal cruelty.

Wyoming Premium Farms is now under new management -- AMVC Management Services, a livestock producing company based in Audobon, Iowa.

AMVC provides the operation with swine health and welfare management and oversight, as well as leadership and training of the employees.

Wyoming Premium Farms ownership apparently has taken the correct steps to rectify the operation's culture of cruelty.

That leads us to Wallis' egregious lapse in judgment. House Bill 126 would criminalize activities used to conduct investigations on private agricultural operations used for the production of livestock or livestock products.

This includes any person without consent from the owner or manager of the agricultural operation who knowingly or intentionally records an image of or sound from the operation. The bill also includes recording images or sounds while committing criminal trespass, accessing operations under false pretenses or, most alarming, while under the employment of the operation.

This anti-whistleblower legislation is unnecessary and unjust. And, given the fact that Wallis is the chief executive of a company that has proposed horse slaughterhouse plants in Oklahoma, Missouri and the Riverton area, it's unethical.

If animal abuse isn't enough to turn your stomach, think about undercover operations that have stopped the spread of foodborne illnesses and the shipping of meat from sick animals.

If HB 126 passes as currently written, employees and others seeking to expose animal abuse and other forms of illicit conduct on farms would risk Class C misdemeanor charges punishable by up to six months in jail and/or a $750 fine.

Wallis conveniently slipped language into her bill that allows any peace officer, agent or officer of the livestock board to lawfully interfere to prevent the perpetration of any act of cruelty upon any livestock animal in his presence. Anyone who attempts to impede those efforts could be fined or imprisoned.

It goes on to say anyone who knows that a livestock animal is being cruelly treated and reports it within 48 hours is immune from civil liability.

Unfortunately, if HB 126 passes, none of those tips will be based on visual evidence. It will be based on one of two things -- hearsay or illegal video.

Wonder how far that'll go?

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(7) Comments

  1. De
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    De - August 17, 2014 10:52 am
    With many prayers that Representative Sue Wallis' bill, HB0126 - Agricultural Operations did not pass in February, 2013, victory for those against animal abuse in factory farms. We are the abused animal voices, and it is shocking that Wallis would want animal abusers in factory farms to go unnoticed and not procecuded for their crimes. The majority of US citizens are not animal abusers and truly want justice for the innocent who cannot speak out for themselves. If the US is to mantain a "civilized" national image, we cannot ignore the horrific truth concerning animal abuse, cruelty, torture and killing animals that occurs everyday in our world. Whether factory farm animals, stray animals, wildlife or pets, we must protect them from cruel and sadistic individuals. HSUS does a great job in efforts to bring justice against these crimes and help save innocent animals.
  2. ButterCream
    Report Abuse
    ButterCream - February 14, 2013 4:04 pm
    Credit for this bill's demise also belongs to the ASPCA and The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), as well as untold individuals within Wyoming who voiced their concerns. With all due respect, I disagree with "Reason's" depiction of HSUS as wrong 99.9% of the time. I don't know exactly what he or she is referring to, but I have worked with HSUS since 1995 (in Wyoming), and they have done a great deal of good for Wyoming animals... spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on massive rescue and hoarding cases and helping out shelters and individuals in need. They work quietly and without fanfare. As an animal welfarist (I am NOT an animal rights activist), I see HSUS as a force for good. "Reason" may believe he or she has reason to disdain this organization, but negativity is fueled by the likes of our own beloved Sue Wallis and other propagandists who are trying to get away with cruel practices and make big bucks from blatantly offensive animal enterprises. As an animal scientist, I take this personally, and I wish people would STOP giving HSUS such a bad rap by reading and distributing falsehoods found on the Internet. Show me your own data to prove me wrong.

    Wallis needs to go. She is evil, heartless, unethical, and an embarrassment to this state. Shame on Campbell County voters for putting her back in the legislature to do still more damage. These voters must be numb between the ears.
  3. WyoAgain
    Report Abuse
    WyoAgain - February 14, 2013 2:12 pm
    Thanks goodness this legislation died. It would have been horribly cruel -- not to mention embarrassing!
  4. ButterCream
    Report Abuse
    ButterCream - February 14, 2013 12:09 pm
    Representative Sue Wallis' bill, HB0126 - Agricultural Operations, died in the Senate Ag Committee Tuesday evening. Many people labored long and hard to defeat this legislation... and it worked. On 3rd reading in the House, the vote was 33 yeas, 27 nays. It passed, but the vote was close. You may check out just what happened to this bill by going to this link... http://legisweb.state.wy.us/2013/Digest/HB0126.htm.

    Thank the Gods we won! This was a horrible bill, for sure. I thank Opinion Editor Kerry Drake and the Casper Star-Tribune for helping to defeat this.
  5. Reason
    Report Abuse
    Reason - February 14, 2013 12:04 pm
    This is one of the very few times I have ever agreed with the CS-T editorial board. What in the world is Sue Wallis thinking with this boneheaded legislation??!! I know she hates the Humane Society of the US, and I agree that they are wrong 99.9% of the time, but this is one of those rare instances were they, and the C-ST, are right. Wake up, Sue!
  6. stickalose
    Report Abuse
    stickalose - February 14, 2013 8:48 am
    Funny how when people object to Govt. snooping the Law and Order types say, " If you've got nothing to hide....".
  7. carlover
    Report Abuse
    carlover - February 14, 2013 5:56 am
    i can not believe the nerve of some people to want to let abuse such as wheatland to continue and condone this behavior, this bill is nothing more then to tie the hands of people who care about the way in which these types of factory farms treat their live stock. if they pass this, then i am for voting every last on of these legislators out of office asap. they have no soul and need not represent me.
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