Carrie Underwood took to Twitter to voice her opposition to the Tennessee legislature’s passage of a so-called “Ag Gag” law:
Shame on TN lawmakers for passing the Ag Gag bill. If Gov. Bill Haslam signs this, he needs to expect me at his front door. Who’s with me?
— Carrie Underwood (@carrieunderwood) April 18, 2013
What is the “Ag Gag” bill? Carrie tweeted out a couple of helpful links:
— Carrie Underwood (@carrieunderwood) April 18, 2013
Carrie had previously expressed her opposition to “Ag Gag” laws in general when she tweeted a NY Times article on the topic a couple weeks ago:
“@nytimes: Taping of Farm Cruelty Is Becoming the Crime http://nyti.ms/10HpjWn ” What the what? Terrorism? Really? Dumbest. Idea. Ever.
The Knoxville News-Sentinel describes the “Ag Gag” law that passed the Tennessee state Senate yesterday:
The bill requires anyone observing abuse of livestock to turn over all photographs and video, unedited, to a law enforcement agency within 48 hours or the next business day, if the 48 hours runs over a weekend or holiday period. Those who do not turn in their pictures or video are subject to a misdemeanor criminal violation, punishable by a fine of up to $500.
Proponents of the bill claim that it would expedite the reporting of possible abuses, but opponents of the bill describe it as a cynical attempt by corporate agricultural interest to interfere with grassroots efforts to hold them accountable for unethical business practices. The Nashville Scene comments on the bill:
That’s to stop animal rights activists from accumulating enough documentation to prove that animal cruelty is routine in big agribusiness. Under this bill, farmers can claim the abuse is a one-time occurrence and proceed with their business as usual. This bill also would have stopped the Humane Society from compiling evidence of soring in the walking horse industry and tipped off trainers to the organization’s investigation.
The Nashville Scene additionally reported that opposition to the bill included Tennessee Senate Republican leader Mark Norris, and the voting tally showed that both support and opposition to the bill crossed party lines.
This recent USA Today editorial also expressed concerns about this type of bill on First Amendment and transparency grounds, arguing:
These measures are designed to curb modern-day muckraking by preventing the recording of abuses and compelling whistle-blowers to identify themselves to the government. The quick time frame for reporting makes it impossible to document sustained abuse.
State laws bar trespassing, so farm owners already have a means to keep activists off the premises…..
There is an overriding public interest in knowing about the quality and safety of the food we eat, starting with animals on farms. While most in the agriculture industry adhere to preparation standards, contaminated meat can sicken thousands. That means a need for greater transparency, not less.
Carrie proceeded to tweet Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam:
@BillHaslam Please don’t sign the Ag Gag bill. Think about the welfare of the animals as well as the consumers. I’m begging you…
@BillHaslam It’s not all about big business. Please look out for the little guys! Show TN that you have a heart… #NoAgGag
The Tennessean points out that Governor Haslam has only exercised his veto power once in the past 2 legislative sessions, and could also not sign the bill to show his disapproval, though in that case the bill would become law anyway.
Meanwhile, co-sponsor of the the bill, Republican State Representative Andy Holt tweeted to Carrie:
@carrieunderwood Have you read the bill?I assume not.You are only going off your HSUS talking points. Use logic, not emotion.
A look at Holt’s recent tweets show him accusing everybody who opposes the bill of being HSUS sheep. Holt also told Nashville’s WSMV:
“I would say that Carrie Underwood will stick to singing, I’ll stick to lawmaking,” Holt said.
His condescension didn’t sit well with Carrie, who tweeted:
— Carrie Underwood (@carrieunderwood) April 20, 2013
Carrie has a history of advocacy for the proper treatment of animals, and that history has riled certain fringe groups looking for publicity. In 2009, her cover of Motley Crue’s “Home Sweet Home” was the exit song for Season 8 of American Idol and a portion of proceeds from its sales went to specific Humane Society Of The United States programs “that help companion animals, including spaying and neutering services and the rescue and shelter of animal victims of puppy mills and disasters.” At the time, a hunters group called the US Sportsmen’s Alliance tried to turn that into an attack by Carrie on hunting. That donation came up again in February 2011 when rodeo interests (including PBR bullrider Austin Meier) tried to start a boycott of Carrie’s music based on the false claim that Carrie’s donation was meant to end rodeos.
Back in 2006, Carrie’s withdrawal from the Frontier Days rodeo event prompted a barrage of publicity and a lawsuit by the event promoter against a group it claimed had influenced Carrie to pull out of a booking there. Carrie has never commented on her withdrawal or her position on rodeos in general. But she has not performed at a single rodeo since Idol despite events like the Houston Rodeo being among country music’s highest drawing live events (the concerts often have reported attendance of 75-80k nightly). Carrie has also commented that her vegetarianism sometimes sparks negative reactions in certain areas of the US. Less controversially, Carrie partnered with the Pedigree Adoption Drive in 2010 to raise awareness of the millions of dogs who wind up in shelters every year.
For somebody who generally stays out of political debates, Carrie sure is fired up about this issue! Do you think her tweets could make a difference?