North Carolina Governor Vetoes Ag-Gag Bill

Editor’s Note: North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory vetoed this bill, saying: “While I support the purpose of this bill, I believe it does not adequately protect or give clear guidance to honest employees who uncover criminal activity.”

Last week, the North Carolina senate approved a bill with a relatively unassuming name—the Property Protection Act. If the bill becomes a law, however, the state’s large animal farms, and a number of other businesses, will benefit from a new level of legal protection against workers looking to shed light on animal abuse or criminal activity.

House Bill 405 seeks to “protect property owners from damages resulting from individuals acting in excess of the scope of permissible access and conduct granted to them.” The “ag-gag” bill would make it illegal for employees to enter any unauthorized spaces or to place an unattended camera electronic surveillance device on the property. It would also make it illegal to apply for a job with the intent to expose animal abuse, environmental harms or food safety issues on farms, or for any reason other than a “bona fide intent of seeking or holding employment.”

Like many recent ag-gag laws proposed around the country, the bill would put an end to undercover investigations on industrial farms. But it goes further than most. In fact, the North Carolina bill doesn’t limit itself to agriculture. H.B. 405 wouls allow any employer to sue anyone who makes audio or video recordings, take photographs or removes data or other material from any area that is not open to the public. It also entitles employers who win a case to collect damages, as well as $5,000 for every day that the law was violated.

In a state with over 52,000 farms, and the second highest rate of pork production next to Iowa, it’s clear that the bill could have a chilling effect on the watchdogs of North Carolina’s agriculture industry. Earlier this month, Compassion Over Killing released a video shot undercover in a large poultry operation there, which received media attention for the harsh conditions it depicted, and would have been illegal under the proposed law.

Read the full story, originally published for Civil Eats.