Carrie Underwood Denounces Tennessee “Ag Gag” Bill, Fights Back Against Bill Co-Sponsor

Carrie Underwood took to Twitter to voice her opposition to the Tennessee legislature’s passage of a so-called “Ag Gag” law:

What is the “Ag Gag” bill? Carrie tweeted out a couple of helpful links:

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 ” 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 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?

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Deb B

Also known as Windmills, I cover country music news and live televised country events, in addition to recapping ABC's 'Nashville.' Additionally, I occasionally do long-form chart analysis that has been cited by Entertainment Weekly, Pitchfork, The Guardian, The New Republic, NPR, and more.
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  • LeahKittyS

    And this is why I love Carrie Underwood. Lovely woman with a captivating voice and a big heart for those who cannot speak for themselves. Keep fighting for what you know is right, girl! I’m with you all the way!

  • ladymctech

    I have never been a big fan of Carrie’s, but after reading this post, I have a new appreciation for her. Thanks for sharing this.

  • Jake W.

    I agree with both sides. However, I will say that the tweet that Andy Holt sent about Carrie was so uncalled for. Kudos to Carrie for keeping calm. I would’ve climbed through the computer screen and smack him.

  • Beth Bowers

    YOU GO CARRIE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • fuzzywuzzy

    ““I would say that Carrie Underwood will stick to singing, I’ll stick to lawmaking,” Holt said.”

    Jerk. I don’t blame Carrie in the least for taking exception to this condescending statement.

  • standtotheright

    I’m proud of her for speaking on a topic she’s passionate about. Given some of her statements about politics in the past, I assumed that she’d leave most of her advocacy to supporting foundations like the Humane Society group mentioned above. But letting people know about legislation that has a real impact on human and animal rights is, IMO, a great use of her platform. I respect her a lot for this.

    And once again, a state legislator goes to the media and sounds like a condescending buffoon rather than engaging respectfully. I hope the people in his district remember that.

  • Bentley1530

    This Ag gag bills which have been proposed in several states seem so un-American to me. And I hate when any politician or pundit says an artist or athlete should shut up and sing or shut up and play ball as if they no longer had the rights of any American to speak their mind or fight for what they believe in. Also with most stars worried about backlash from the public and their corporate partners, I applaud anyone of them who speaks out even if I disagree with their position so go Carrie.

  • Indigobunting

    I can’t abide PETA (Of course not all of them are nuts, but a large proportion are, in my experience. And I am in the animal care business).

    And although business deserves to be protected from harassment (some humane procedures can appear otherwise to those not educated in animal husbandry) this bill seems like overkill to me- not necessary and certainly designed to limit public exposure to possible abusive practices in the sanitation and animal welfare departments. Although not surprising since America has its sacred cows like guns and cheap meat (pun intended :) ).

    HSUS has become more ‘radical’ so to speak also, IMO- but this time I”m with Carrie and the harassment by the idiot lawmaker is pretty, well, idiotic.

  • ??EvHeaD??ozzy??

    omg should stick to singing??? who the hell is this guy to judge her on what she should do. She is only fighting for something she believes in and has EVERY right to do so. And saying that is just too rude and too arrogant… Bulls**t.

  • chillj

    This is a basic freedom of speech issue as well as an animal rights issue. If the animal industry can protect itself from unwanted exposure, so can every company in America. A signed bill will end up in the Supreme court.

  • Reflects On Life

    Have AgGag laws been tested by the US Supreme Court yet? Sounds like a 1st Amendment violation to me. Or already covered by trespass laws.

    Would love to see Carrie become a true political activist in the next phase of her life, the kind who spearheads class-action suits against this sort of thing.

  • Pat H

    Proud of her! She pays taxes and votes just like any other American! She has every right to speak up!

  • Chicagolaw

    Good for you, Carrie!

  • NatSasic

    Indeed. Laws aren’t just for lawmakers, they apply to everyone. Of course she should be allowed to get involved.

  • chessguy99

    The laws are constitutional. They basically force someone to turn over evidence of a violation to the authority who has jurisdiction. The purpose is two-fold; to make sure violations are reported in a timely manner, and to prevent economic harm to farmers who do run their businesses in a responsible manner. Great harm is caused when these violations are sensationalized, as the general public tends to see an industry as its worse representative. Its a case of one bad apple spoiling the whole bunch.

    The only harm in the law is if the authority who has jurisdiction fails to act on the evidence.

  • windmills

    You are incorrect about the constitutionality of the bill because this bill is in conflict with the First Amendment protection of freedom of speech and freedom of the press. I’ll get to that later.

    Your “bad apple” analogy holds just as much if not more for those who have sensationalized abusive practices as it does for those in agribusiness. The problem with this billis that it forces those who record abusive practices to identify themselves to the government and that net effect will be to discourage the recording of abusive practices by would-be whistleblowers fearful for their jobs and futures. In fact, it would criminalize potential whistleblowers without doing anything to hold agricultural enterprises more accountable for their treatment of animals. I’m not going to pretend all animal rights’ groups are above holding back information for strategically advantageous times, but this bill overreaches by far too much.

    The motives of the sponsors of this bill become clearer when you learn that, as reported by the Chattanooga Free Press:

    While Gresham said her purpose is to end suffering for animals, last year she and the same House sponsor, Rep. Andy Holt, R-Dresden, had a different approach.

    They tried to pass a bill making it a crime for anyone to apply for a job with the intent of causing “economic damage” to an employer by means of unauthorized recordings and releasing them to third parties, including news organizations or on the Internet.

    This makes it clear that Holt and Gresham’s intent is to protect business from accountability, and that overrides their interest in ensuring the proper, legal treatment of animals.

    As the article further points out, the failure of the bill to exempt the media puts the bill in conflict with Tennessee’s Shield Law, which allows reporters to keep their sources confidential. It is an infringement on the ability of the media and concerned citizens to obtain evidence of and report on abusive practices within the agricultural world. That’s where the First Amendment violation case is, and it’s a matter of time before this kind of law is struck down as unconstitutional.

  • Cindy Moniz

    I always have respect for people who stand up for what they believe in. Good for Carrie!

  • fuzzywuzzy

    Thanks, windmills. I appreciate the background on the sponsors of the bill and their previous efforts.

  • Happyhexer

    Carrie is right. And I don’t say that lightly. As strange and counter-intuitive as it may sound, there generally is no legal requirement (as opposed to a moral imperative) to report crime. For example, people in certain professions are mandatory reporters of child abuse. If they don’t report suspected abuse, they could lose their jobs. But they generally aren’t going to be charged with a crime, even a misdemeanor violation. And mandatory reporter laws don’t apply to the general public. So this law makes little sense. The general public must turn over photographic/video evidence of animal abuse but isn’t required to report child abuse? I have to believe the purpose of the law is intended to prevent the accumulation of photos/videos that demonstrate a pattern or practice of animal abuse. How the heck did they sell this to TN legislators?

  • Cathy Knott

    This law is not about people that do things in a responsible manner. It is about the horrors that are happening in factory farms now. The agribusiness is trying to keep these practises secret because people become horrified when they find out. After watching a few of the videos on factory farming I am now vegan.