Clergy Members And People Of Faith Urge Tennessee Governor To Veto “Ag Gag” Bill

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Clergy for Justice Tennessee, a grassroots organization of religious leaders across Tennessee committed to seeking justice in public policy, hand-delivered a letter from its members and supporters to Governor Haslam’s office, urging the governor to veto a bill designed to prevent the exposure of animal abuse in horse stables and agriculture facilities.

Over 300 clergy members and people of faith have added their voices to the chorus of groups across the state, urging Governor Bill Haslam to veto Tennessee’s notorious “ag gag” bill. Senate Bill 1248, which would criminalize the investigation of animal cruelty and other illegal or unethical activity at agriculture operations while shielding animal agribusiness from public scrutiny, narrowly passed the Legislature. It is now on its way to Governor Bill Haslam’s office to be vetoed or signed into law.

“Genesis 1 tells us that everything on the earth has been created by God, and that God has commanded humans to care for the animals,” said Kathy Chambers, director of Clergy for Justice Tennessee. “Far too often they are subject to abuse which causes unthinkable suffering, clearly violating that mandate. As people of faith, we are called to speak out against injustice and cruelty in whatever forms they might take. Thus, we urge Governor Haslam to stand with people of faith across the state and veto this bill.”

In 2011, an undercover investigation into renowned Tennessee walking horse trainer Jackie McConnell’s stable in Collierville, Tn., revealed egregious cruelty to horses. A whistleblower documented horses being whipped, kicked, shocked, and subjected to painful soring using caustic chemicals on their legs.

Full text of the letter follows:

Dear Gov. Haslam,

We, the undersigned clergy and people of faith, are writing to express our deep concern and great disappointment with the passage of SB 1248 (otherwise known as the anti-whistleblower “ag gag” bill) and urge you to veto this legislation.

The relationship between people and animals is a unique one. Genesis chapter one tells us that all of us are created by God and that God has given humans special charge over the animals. Indeed, when we care for animals, we care for people; when we dismiss or ignore animals, we miss a significant aspect of what it means to be human and caretakers of the earth and all its inhabitants.

Too often God’s creatures are treated not as sentient beings we are commanded to care for but are simply dismissed as part of the food chain, packed by the thousands into small spaces to ensure greater profits for their owners. We know these practices cause unthinkable suffering, yet often we turn a blind eye to them. As people of faith we are not called to ignore the truth. Instead, we are called to see the world as it is and to work to transform it, naming evil practices when we see them and making decisions that are consistent with the faith we live out in the rest of our lives.

Regardless of one’s faith tradition or denomination, two words that are universally shared by all are “compassion” and “stewardship.” Thus, we must only support legislation when it reflects good stewardship and compassionate care for all God’s creatures. If the “ag gag” bill is signed into law, it will result in countless incidents of animal abuse going undocumented and causing unthinkable suffering to countless numbers of God’s creatures. This, to us, is evil and against God’s will for humanity.

Now is the time for you to answer God’s call, Gov. Haslam. Please VETO this bill and show compassion to all God’s creatures, both great and small. It is not only the right thing to do, it is the moral and faithful thing to do.


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