Dear Representative _______,
My name is Joanna Taylor Stone, and I'm writing to express my vehement opposition to PA House Bill No. 683, regarding “the offense of interfering with agricultural operations,” sent to Judicial Review Committee in February 2013.
I work for a health system, and as part of my employment, I know that I am covered by whistleblower protections that exist to allow me to feel confident to report fraud or waste as it pertains to the use of government money. House Bill No. 683 would strip away whistleblower protections for workers in agricultural operations intending to document animal abuse and cruelty (animals that end up in our food supply), food safety violations, workplace violations or environmentally destructive practices. Even the transmission of this information would be outlawed, which does not encourage media outlets to be able to communicate this information to consumers.
We as citizens know that the best defense to libel is the truth. If an agricultural company has nothing to hide in its facilities, it shouldn’t matter if the daily operations are documented. Transparency leads to quality and safety in any industry, and that is especially the case for agriculture, as what we don’t know could kill us. Hidden camera investigations are one of the most useful tools in eliminating fraud and mistreatment. Consult any number of videos taken on farms right here in Pennsylvania and you will see that it is imperative that what goes on behind these closed doors is exposed for consumers to see. Only then can we make informed choices as to whether or not to support corporations who abuse animals, workers and the environment to achieve their profit margins.
As a resident of _____, you represent me in the PA House. One of the hallmarks of our democracy is the right to free speech. Ag-gag laws that attempt to silence those who would speak up and expose fraud and abuse are an egregious violation of that right.
I urge you to do what you can to oppose this bill and encourage your colleagues to do so as well.
Thank you for your time,
Joanna Taylor Stone