Haslam Swamped By Response To Animal Cruelty Bill

Never has Gov. Bill Haslam received so much communication on a single issue. As of Wednesday afternoon, his office counted 4,502 emails and 1,796 phone calls – almost all of them against the so-called “ag gag” bill.

The proposal that passed the Tennessee legislature by a narrow margin requires that activists turn over footage of livestock cruelty to police within 48 hours. Organizations like the Humane Society of the United States say such a law would criminalize long term investigations, like one that led to the conviction of a Tennessee Walking Horse trainer last year.

Animal rights groups have mounted a media blitz, complete with paid advertising in Nashville and Knoxville urging Haslam to veto the bill. TV personality Ellen DeGeneres – a well-known animal activist – had the Humane Society’s CEO on her show to talk about Tennessee’s animal cruelty bill.

“These kind of undercover cameras catch a lot of things,” DeGeneres said. “It’s important to keep that kind of thing going.”

It’s unclear how many of the calls and emails are coming from out of state, says a spokesman for Gov. Haslam. Only 16 of the fielded calls have supported the legislation.

Supporters have not had the media on their side, with celebrities and newspaper editorials coming out against the bill. But groups including the Farm Bureau and Tennessee Cattlemen’s Association argue video taken on a farm can be misunderstood when viewed out of context.

The governor has 10 business days to decide what to do with a bill once it reaches his desk – sign, veto or let it go into law without his signature. That clock has not started ticking yet.

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