Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Columns

January 13, 2014

KENT BLACKLIDGE: Supporters of 'ag-gag' bill betray the public trust

Supporters of 'ag-gag' bill betray the public trust.

The secrecy agents are at it again.

State Sen. Travis Holdman, a Republican from over around Wells County, has introduced Senate Bill 101. This bill is also known as the “ag-gag” bill. Its purpose is to keep secret all of the questionable practices of farmers in raising animals or crops, many of which wind up on the tables of Indiana families.

We all know some of the practices of confinement feeding of pigs, cattle and chickens are abominable. It is just that the farmers who engage in such practices want them kept secret. They want the public to be kept ignorant.

This type of legislation was introduced in the last session of the General Assembly and did not make it through to the governor’s desk. Hopefully, this will be the fate of this attempt at censorship.

Hiding only confirms wrongdoing. Think about it. If you are doing things you think would be judged wrong by the public, the only way to keep doing them is to hide them, keep them secret. Otherwise, an informed public may require change.

Those who support this bill are proposing secrecy. Those supporters do not belong in positions of public trust because they betray that trust.

Several other states have passed such legislation. The bills are aimed directly at whistleblowers. It criminalizes whistleblowing.

Whistleblowing employees have played a vital role in exposing animal abuse, unsafe working conditions, and environmental problems in industrial-style farming operations.

There are already adequate laws on the books to prevent or penalize misbehavior around private property. No more laws are needed, particularly if hiding acts and practices the public needs to know about are what they do.

The ag-gag bill needs to die a not-so-quiet death.

Kent Blacklidge, Ph.D., is a former vice chancellor of external relations at IU Kokomo and past publisher of the Kokomo Tribune. Contact him at kent@visionengineers.com.

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