Controversial New Arkansas ‘Ag Gag’ Law Could Penalize Whistleblowers

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Medium sized dogs pause in the doorway of their mud-filled pen during an animal rescue, Thursday, March 3, 2016, in Madison Co., Arkansas. (Brandon Wade/AP Images for The Humane Society of the United States)

LITTLE ROCK (KFSM) — A new Arkansas law could penalize whistleblowers for sharing damaging information about businesses.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed House Bill 1665 — called the “ag gag bill” — into law on Thursday (March 23).

The law allows businesses to file lawsuits against people who share documents, pictures, videos, or recordings that damage the company, if they were taken from nonpublic areas. The law also applies to employees.

Additionally, anyone who knowingly assists or directs people who share documents or files that hurt their company could also be held liable.

Companies can sue for relief, compensatory damages, and costs and fees. Companies can sue for up to $5,000 a day in damages for each day that a defendant violates the law. For example, if someone uses a hidden camera to record a company’s activities over several days, the individual could face tens of thousands of dollars worth of damages.

Law enforcement officers who are conducting investigations, state agencies, institutes of higher education, and medical services or healthcare providers are excluded from the law.

Several groups, including animal rights activists, have shared their opposition of the bill.

The Animal Legal Defence Fund denounced the law in a press release on Friday (March 24). It sates that the law allows puppy mills and factory farms to sue people who expose animal abuse. Additionally the law could keep people from exposing issues at restaurants and daycare centers, or risk court.

“The ability to investigate, document and publicize corporate agriculture’s abuses is imperative to the well-being of animals, and to our own health and safety,” said Stephen Wells, Animal Legal Defense Fund executive director. “The Animal Legal Defense Fund is already challenging Ag-Gag laws in Utah, Idaho, and North Carolina. We’ll see Arkansas in court soon.”

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