by Steven Hale
A year ago, Rep. Andy Holt sponsored a bill called the Animal Cruelty and Abuse Bill which, in short, required that any photographs, video or other evidence of livestock abuse be turned over to law enforcement within 48 hours.
Holt and his co-sponsor claimed the bill was aimed at encouraging whistleblowers, but many others — including notable Nashvillians like Carrie Underwood and our own J.R. Lind, and scores of animal welfare activists — saw it as a Trojan horse. Instead of protecting animals against abuse, the bill would actually have criminalized the activities of whistleblowers and even journalists — whose efforts to expose abuse often take longer than 48 hours — and effectively protect animal abusers.
Nevertheless, the legislature passed the bill. The Knoxville News-Sentinel said it would ignore the bill if it became law. Holt made a buffoon of himself on multiple occasions. Eventually, Gov. Bill Haslam vetoed the bill.
Well, this morning, Tom Humphrey at the News-Sentinel reports that Ag Gag is back:
Of the three bills criticized by the animal welfare groups this year, perhaps the most akin to last year’s bill is one largely devoted to regulating the use of drones in agriculture. But section ten of the seven-page bill (SB1892) — a “sneaky” insertion, said McCollum — is a provision creating the crime of
“surreptitious commercial surveillance.”
The offense occurs, according to a legislative staff summary, when an employee or another person on a business property delivering goods or services makes a recording without the business’ permission and under “false pretenses.” The crime is deemed “aggravated,” with a higher penalty, comes when the “electronic or photographic images or audio recordings” thus obtained are transmitted to others.
Quoted there is Leighann McCollum, state director of the Humane Society of the United States. She tells Humphrey that the new bill(s) is actually "worse than Ag Gag” and calls it "anti-whistleblower."
Holt is back as a sponsor of two of the three bills. He tells Humphrey, “It doesn’t look like I’ll ever be able to please any of the radical animal rights groups and that’s OK.”
Among the radical groups Holt hasn't been able to please is the state Department of Agriculture, which "has repeatedly found Rep. Andy Holt’s 1,400-hog farming operation out of compliance."
Apropos of nothi … well, actually, apropos of the foolishness with which Holt approaches his role as a state lawmaker, he recently authored a resolution urging Sean Hannity to move to Tennessee.