WASHINGTON – Yesterday afternoon, the Arkansas state government passed into law HB 1665, a bill designed to discourage whistleblowers from making public disclosures about food, worker, and animal safety at industrial agriculture facilities, under the guise of protecting property. This law severely restricts the rights of whistleblowers knowledgeable about fraud, abuse, or illegality to speak out on behalf of the public interest. It is the fourth attempt by Arkansas lawmakers in recent memory to pass such legislation, which induces a chilling effect aimed at suppressing occupational free speech.
It is disconcerting to see these anti-transparency bills re-appear over and over in state legislatures during a period of time where access to the truth is as vital as ever. The Government Accountability Project’s (GAP) Food Integrity Campaign Director Amanda Hitt added:
“We can’t turn our heads on industrial agriculture, not in a time when animal diseases are making the leap to human disease. This is bigger than some opulent corporate power’s “right” to hide its shameful truth; this is about needless animal suffering, imminent public health threats and fundamental constitutional rights.”
In the past four years, over 25 states in the US have introduced similar “Ag-Gag” bills. Fortunately, most have been met with vigorous opposition from their respective constituencies. This particular case is no exception: A 2017 polling report conducted in early March from Remington Research Group found that over 80% of Arkansas residents agree that individuals who disclose their employer’s unethical behavior should not face legal punishment.
To bring horrific truths to the public eye, undercover footage and images are an effective means for whistleblowers who otherwise risk retaliation when speaking up. Going through “proper channels” to report abuse often results in reprisal from supervisors, who try to silence employees through intimidation. Video is often the only way to prove allegations. Ag-Gag legislation aims to silence honest whistleblowers and keep appalling truths from reaching the public.
Contact: Luke Drabyn, GAP Communications Associate
Phone: 202.457.0034, ext. 130
Government Accountability Project
The Government Accountability Project is the nation’s leading whistleblower protection organization. Through litigating whistleblower cases, publicizing concerns and developing legal reforms, GAP’s mission is to protect the public interest by promoting government and corporate accountability. Founded in 1977, GAP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C.