published Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

33,000 across U.S. sign petition opposing Tennessee 'ag gag' bill

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

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NASHVILLE — More than 33,000 people nationwide have signed an American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee petition urging Gov. Bill Haslam to veto a so-called "ag gag" bill that critics charge is designed to curb animal abuse investigations, the group says.

Only 350 were from Tennessee, but the ACLU says the list continues to grow.

Haslam is weighing whether to sign, veto or allow the bill, passed last month by state legislators, to become law without his signature. Various celebrities and a clergy group have urged him to veto it, as well.

The ACLU's petition says the legislation "does nothing to prevent cruelty to animals. Even worse, it criminalizes average citizens and journalists who witness and document abuse.

"Please protect our constitutional right to free speech and freedom of the press. Veto the 'Ag-Gag' legislation this week," the petition continues.

The Humane Society of the United States led an unsuccessful charge against the bill in the Legislature, prompting heated remarks from the House sponsor, Rep. Andy Holt, R-Dredsen, in an email to a HSUS official.

Holt said the bill is intended "to help protect livestock in Tennessee from suffering months of needless investigation that propagandist groups of radical animal activists, like your fraudulent and reprehensibly disgusting organization of maligned animal abuse profiteering corporatists, who are intent on using animals the same way human-traffickers use 17-year-old women."

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