Video of abuse at Indiana dairy farm raises concerns about NC's 'Ag-Gag' law

Concerns about North Carolina's 'Ag-Gag' bill have risen ever since three former employees at an Indiana dairy farm were charged with animal cruelty following the release of disturbing whistleblower video.

The videos, released by the Miami-based Animal Recovery Mission, show workers kicking, punching, throwing and abusing calves at Fair Oaks Farms.

Fair Oaks Farms has been the flagship for Fair Life milk. Fair Life said it has now discontinued the use of milk from Fair Oaks Farms.

An Animal Recovery Mission investigator was hired by the farm as a "calf care employee," according to A.R.M. The investigator, however, was under the direction of A.R.M. and captured, what they called, the "daily routine of workers and managers."

Investigator footage showed a wide range of abuse, according to A.R.M.

The thing is, in North Carolina, this sort of whistleblower investigation couldn't happen legally because of what some call an 'Ag-Gag' bill. 

2015's House Bill 405 reads, in part, "Any person who [is]...knowingly or intentionally placing on the employer's premesis an unattended camera or electronic surveillance device and using that device to record images or data," is subject to a $5,000 fine, among other penalties for damages.

"It's crazy, right? Like, no one in their right mind would think that's okay," the Humane League's Kelsey Joseph said.

Joseph said the bill prevents whistleblowers from exposing corruption inside farms and other businesses such as day cares and nursing homes.

"Because they don't want us to see what's behind their closed farm doors," Joseph said.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund is currently suing the State of North Carolina over this law. 

Discovery responses in the lawsuit are due on June 24. Republican State Representative John Szoka, who was a primary sponsor of the bill, admitted that it's not perfect but said it's intention is to prevent people who are "being compensated by one organization to spy on another."

Democratic State Representative Pricey Harrison called it a "bad deal, bad law," that was supported by multiple lobbying groups.

Since A.R.M. released it's intial videos from Fair Oaks Farms, it's released additional videos that allegedly show employees striking cows with poles and apparently breaking the tails of some uncooperative cows.

Fair Oaks did not immediately respond to comment on the latest allegations.

North Carolina animal advocates believe whistleblower videos like these, while disappointing, are necessary.

"We know that this kind of abuse happens on farms all across the country," Joseph said.

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