The New Year in North Carolina brought with it several new laws that took effect on January 1st.
The most consequential of these laws is the Property Protection Act (House Bill 405), which was passed by North Carolina’s senate last June. Judging it solely on its title, this bill seems to be in alignment with American values. The truth, however, is that the bill facilitates unethical companies in the animal agriculture industry to conceal malpractice and abuse of animals.
The Property Protection Act is an anti-whistleblower law which criminalizes employees who intentionally create or produce an image or sound occurring within an employer’s premises.
Employers in North Carolina can now make large damage claims, for matters like loss of business due to exposure of animal abuse, and can file civil lawsuits to fine an employee up to $5,000 for every day that they exposed corporate maltreatment of animals.
Although this law initially targeted animal agriculture, the Property Protection Act also applies to nursing homes, daycare centers, and other industries. With the law in place, undercover employees or journalists hoping to expose abuse of senior citizens, children, and animals in shelters or on farms now do so at great legal and financial risk to themselves.
This legislation is one of many bills proposed around the country in the past several years that make it harder and oftentimes criminal to expose abuse on industrial farms and in slaughterhouses. Dubbed “ag gag” bills by their opponents, these laws are promoted by the
meat and dairy industry and their government allies to conceal from the public the treatment of the animals that end up on our plates. To many’s displeasure, farmers do not always treat their livestock with respect. These animals are often seen as products for profit rather than as living beings. In alignment with this idea, farm animals are not protected by any animal cruelty laws that apply to household pets.
Undercover films by factory farm employees, prior to the passing of the House Bill 405, enabled concerned consumers to take an inside look at the unnecessary beating, disregard, and torture of cows, chickens, turkeys, pigs, and other farm animals. The Property Protection Act now makes it even more difficult for consumers to make an informed choice at the grocery store.
It is evident that the Property Protection Act goes against the 1st Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of speech and suppresses our shared value of opposition when faced with injustice.
Even Governor Pat McCrory, a Republican known for his conservative views, vetoed the bill. He stated, “I am concerned that subjecting these employees to potential civil penalties will create an environment that discourages them from reporting illegal activities.” Soon after Governor
McCrory’s veto, the General Assembly override the veto, 79-36 in the House, 33-15 in the Senate.
In addition to Governor McCrory’s opposition of the bill, 8,000 signatures stood against the
Property Protection act when it was first introduced. Although this resistance did not prevent the introduction of North Carolina’s ag gag bill, there is still a huge uproar of resistance. A complaint has been filed against the bill. Animal protection and consumer agencies, like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the Center for Food Safety, created a 57 page objection letter in Greensboro. The plaintiffs are pushing for the Property Protection act to be declared unconstitutional under the first and fourteenth amendment.
There’s still something we can do as consumers to ensure that fewer animals will be subjected to closeted malpractice. Take the UNCG Meatless monday pledge to ensure that fewer animals will face the unrestricted hand of abuse. http://uncg.meatlessmondaypledge.com/