FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - JAN. 13, 1998
DON'T SAY ANYTHING BAD ABOUT HOG FACTORIES - YOU'LL BE SUED!!
REPRESENTATIVE SAM LEAKE, CHAIR OF MISSOURI HOUSE AG COMMITTEE, INTRODUCES BILL TO RESTRICT FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION. BILL ADVOCATED BY AGRI-BUSINESS CORPORATIONS AND ORGANIZATIONS.
"THIS IS NOTHING MORE THAN A BLATANT ATTEMPT TO STIFLE FREE SPEECH - THE INDUSTRIAL AG OPERATIONS CAN'T TAKE CRITICISM, SO THEY WANT TO MAKE IT ILLEGAL" - KEN MIDKIFF, DIRECTOR OF THE SIERRA CLUB IN MISSOURI. "THIS IS THE 'FOOD NAZI ACT'".
Rather than addressing the problems caused by industrial-style agriculture, or engaging in a dialogue with those critical of concentrated animal feeding operations and heavy use of chemicals in crop production, the Farm Bureau, the Cattlemen's Association and other supporters of industrial agri-businesses have been conducting a nationwide campaign to pass bills in states' legislatures to stifle such criticism. Supporters claim that producers suffer monetary losses when disparaging remarks are made about their products.
Some states have actually passed such legislation - and currently national attention is being focused on Texas, where Oprah Winfrey is being sued by the cattle industry. On a show about "mad cow" disease, Ms. Winfrey stated that she would "never eat another hamburger" - after a guest discussed the practice of grinding up cows that had died and adding the parts to cattle feed.
The guest referred to this as "cow cannibalism".
Leake's bill - HB 923 - would establish a penalty of three times actual damages for anyone who "knowingly" makes or disseminates a false and disparaging statement about agricultural products of producers, and would allow lawsuits against anyone who makes a statement that an ag producer believes to be false - regardless of knowledge or intent [Exact language attached].
"We have existing libel laws to protect against abuses of speech. This bill goes way beyond libel - if , for example, an organic grower states that his vegetables or animals are healthier than those grown with chemicals, the producer of those chemicals could sue on the claim that the statement is false and the organic grower would be hauled into court. This puts a chilling effect on free speech!
We believe that it violates the First Amendment." Scott Dye - Putnam County landowner and critic of factory hog operations.