AG: Tenn. 'Ag-gag bill' constitutionally suspect

The state

FILE - In this April 22, 2010 image from video provided by the United States Humane Society, a Hallmark Meat Packing slaughter plant worker is shown attempting to force a "downed" cow onto its feet by ramming it with the blades of a forklift in Chino, Calif. State legislators across the country are introducing laws making it harder for animal welfare advocates to investigate cruelty and food safety cases. Bills pending in California, Nebraska and Tennessee require that anyone collecting evidence of abuse turn it over to law enforcement within 24 to 48 hours - which advocates say does not allow enough time to document illegal activity under federal humane handling and food safety laws. Critics say the bills are an effort to deny consumers the ability to know how their food is produced. (AP Photo/Humane Society of the United States, file)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- The state's attorney general has opined that legislation requiring anyone recording images of animal abuse to submit unedited footage or photos to law enforcement within 48 hours is constitutionally suspect.

Attorney General Robert Cooper said in the opinion issued Thursday that the bill is questionable on three grounds, including that its "reporting requirement could be found to constitute an unconstitutional burden on news gathering. "

A number of groups and celebrities have spoken out against the proposal. Critics say the measure would put an end to extended undercover operations targeting animal abuse.

Gov. Bill Haslam has the bill on his desk and said earlier this week that he was waiting on the attorney general's opinion before making a decision on whether to veto it or let it become law.


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