The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Opinion

April 9, 2014

Our View: Don’t exempt animal data

Details about diseased animals and agriculture events that could pose a public health threat should be open to the public for obvious reasons.

But legislation proposed in Missouri would wall off the public from data collected by state agencies under the federal Animal Disease Traceability Program.

Rep. Bill Reiboldt, R-Neosho, is one of the sponsors of the bill. Reiboldt, a former dairy former, says he thinks “it’s better kept quiet — not hidden — so you have the facts when you come out with it rather than upsetting people.”

Having the facts is imperative, but why should that make such information exempt from the Missouri Sunshine Law? Is it because an exemption would provide more time to create a story to tell the public instead of the truth?

The report of livestock diseases has been mandated in Missouri for years. It is how we keep diseased animals quarantined and how we keep consumers safe.

Reiboldt also cites animal rights activists who he says are looking for ways to undermine agriculture in the state using negative publicity.

The Missouri Press Association, of which The Joplin Globe is a member, has testified that closure of the information “will raise a red flag for consumers about what may be hidden.”

The bill has received support from the Missouri Pork Association, the Missouri Farm Bureau, the Missouri Federation of Animal Owners and the Missouri Cattlemen’s Association.

But we can see nothing good coming out of keeping secrets about the details of diseased animals in our state. The bill exempts registration, animal identification, environmental and animal tracking data collected by any state agency from disclosure requirements as well as data collected for the purpose of animal health or environmental protection.

Transparency about the food we eat seems to be in the public interest. We would urge legislators to keep this information open.

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