TN Governor Vetoes Anti-Whistleblower Bill HSUS's TN state director comforts a horse in Jackie McConnell’s stable. © Lance Murphey / HSUS  

TN Governor Vetoes Anti-Whistleblower Bill

Ag-Gag Bill

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam kicked out the controversial “ag-gag” bill Monday. It would have required those documenting animal abuse to hand over the unedited photos or video within 48 hours to authorities or risk criminal prosecution.

Haslam cited the legal opinion of Tennessee Attorney General Robert Cooper who called the bill “constitutionally suspect” under the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.

In a statement, he said, “First, the Attorney General says the law is constitutionally suspect. Second, it appears to repeal parts of Tennessee’s Shield Law without saying so… Third, there are concerns from some district attorneys that the act actually makes it more difficult to prosecute animal cruelty cases, which would be an unintended consequence.”

In 2011, an HSUS investigation into Tennessee walking horse trainer Jackie McConnell’s stable revealed shocking cruelty. The investigator recorded horses being whipped, kicked, shocked in the face, and burned with caustic chemicals. As a result of the 4 month investigation, a federal grand jury handed down a 52-count criminal indictment. A state grand jury indicted McConnell and two others for 38 counts of criminal animal cruelty. Similar crimes would never be discovered if the bill was enacted.

The veto is Haslam’s second since he took office in 2010.