Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson signed HB1665—an anti-whistleblower bill—into law on Thursday. The legislation will make it illegal for employees, journalists, investigators, and watchdogs in a variety of industries (including factory farms) to document abuse. “Governor Hutchinson has failed Arkansas and the American people,” animal-rights group Mercy For Animals’ (MFA) president Nathan Runkle said. “By signing this bill into law, he has sided with those who seek to keep Arkansas’s corrupt factory farming practices hidden from public view and created a safe haven for animal abuse and other criminal activity in the state.” MFA’s undercover investigations have previously revealed widespread cruelty to animals across farms in Arkansas that supply corporations such as Walmart—which has since committed to sweeping animal welfare reforms in response to public pressure. According to Runkle, bills similar to HB1665 have previously been proposed across several states and were ultimately defeated—with one in Idaho recently ruled unconstitutional by a federal court. “Consumers have a right to know how their food is produced and how animals on factory farms are treated so they can make informed choices,” Runkle said. “But now, due to this misguided law, consumers would be wise to assume that food produced on Arkansas farms is the product of systematic cruelty and corruption.” Animal-rights groups such as MFA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and the Humane Society of the United States have committed to taking legal action in order to overturn this legislation.
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