On Friday, North Carolina’s governor, Pat McCrory, vetoed a bill meant to keep animal-rights activists away from confined animal feeding operations. This probably comes as a surprise to McCrory’s fellow Republicans — the bill passed with strong support from both houses of the state legislature. Indeed, the original votes to approve the bill had enough support to override a veto.
McCrory issued a statement explaining that he had just signed another bill to protect whistleblowers in nursing homes and couldn’t very well condemn whistleblowers on farms. He wrote:
This bill is intended to address a valid concern of our state’s businesses — how to discourage those bad actors who seek employment with the intent to engage in corporate espionage or act as an undercover investigator. This practice is unethical and unfair to employers, and is a particular problem for our agricultural industry. It needs to be stopped.
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. I am concerned that subjecting these employees to potential civil penalties will create an environment that discourages them from reporting illegal activities.
Several states have outlawed onsite photography or research at animal farms when such activities might hurt the business: Kansas, Montana, North Dakota, Idaho, Iowa, Missouri, Wyoming, South Carolina, and Utah all have what Mark Bittman has called ag-gag laws. Several are being challenged in court, and judges have ruled that several others violate the First Amendment.
It’s always great to see a politician standing up for logical consistency! Grist gave McCrory a nod back in 2010 for championing public transit when he was mayor of Charlotte.