Well, sort of.
Country superstar Carrie Underwood has never been an outspoken political activist. In fact, it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that she even whispered a word about any of her own affiliations. However, as fans know, animal rights is a cause near and dear to her heart. Over the years, Carrie has showed her undying support for such causes as the Humane Society of the United States. In 2009, her gorgeous cover of Motley Crue’s “Home Sweet Home” was featured on American Idol as that year’s exit song, and the single’s proceeds were donated to specific organization causes. Of course, the US Sportsmen’s Alliance tried to spin this act of kindness into an attack on hunting. Later, this issue resurfaced in 2011 when “rodeo interests (including PBR bullrider Austin Meier) tried to start a boycott of Carrie’s music based on the false claim that Carrie’s donation was meant to end rodeos,” according to Mjsbigblog.
Earlier than that, Carrie was the center of a firestorm in 2006 following her decision to withdraw from performing at a Frontier Days rodeo event. A barrage of negative publicity and a lawsuit ensued, claiming one specific organization convinced Carrie to pull out. Since the incident, Carrie has never performed at rodeo-type events, leading many to assume she wanted rodeos (and hunting) shut down.
That is not the case. Carrie addressed these issues on her official fan club last spring.
On fan asked, “Has anybody ever heard Carrie say that she wants rodeo and hunting stopped? A girl commented on a local radio station post on Facebook saying that she lost respect when she heard Carrie wanted rodeo and hunting stopped. That girl has posted something like that before not too long ago. I have never heard that, and I was wondering if any of you have.”
On March 6, 2012, Carrie replied:
“I have never said anything like that…but because I support the HSUS and their spaying and neutering programs and their efforts to stop puppy mills, some people misunderstand and think that I am involved in things that I am not involved in. I come from a rodeo town. I have several family members that hunt…close family members. I think that particular person just jumped to conclusions that are not accurate. Hope that clears things up.”
Fast forward to 2013, and Carrie is at the center of another controversy surrounding animal activism.
Carrie initially responded to a New York Times article published on April 6, titled “Taping of Farm Cruelty is Becoming a Crime.” The article lays out the case of what are labeled as “Ag-Gag” bills — a seemingly innocent act of legislation to fight against livestock abuse. However, the real issue is the violation of the First Amendment, hindering activist groups and undercover journalists to gather the necessary documentation to report on such heinous misdeeds. NYT says many of these bills serve as “drafted measures to require such videos to be given to the authorities almost immediately, which activists say would thwart any meaningful undercover investigation of large factory farms.” These bills have, allegedly, been inspired by the American Legislative Exchange Council, an advocacy organization that has enlisted hundreds of state representatives from farm states. Essentially, this group creates model bills — ranging from “stand your ground” gun laws to voter identification. One of the more controversial bills is “The Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act,” which prohibits video and photography on livestock farms with the intention of defaming the facility or the owner. Furthermore, if caught, the perpetrator is placed on a “terrorist registry.” As a result, many animal activist groups have curtailed their undercover efforts — including in such states as Iowa, Utah and Missouri, in which similar laws were passed last year.
In our world, actively fighting for animal rights is the same as bombing the Boston Marathon.
This is where Carrie comes in. Her response to the above article:
NYT goes on to report that Kelli Ludlum, the Council’s director of Congressional relations, compared the footage of abhorrent animal acts to the first time seeing open heart surgery. “They could be performing a perfect procedure, but you would consider it abhorrent that they were cutting a person open,” she said.
This past week, Tennessee voted on similar Ag-Gag measures. TN’s State Senate voted 22-9 in favor of the bill, innocently claiming that their goal is to stop animal cruelty. However, the underlying intention is to criminalizing the reporting of such heinous acts and punish the whistleblowers. As The Nashville Scene describes it, “The bill makes it a crime to videotape animal cruelty or abuse and then fail to turn in the evidence to authorities within 48 hours.” This development sets up a major roadblock for animal rights activists and undercover operations to accumulate evidence to prove long-term cruelty. Farmers and corporate factories now have free license to claim it was a “one time” occurrence, completely shedding them of any accountability.
Well, Carrie is none too happy about this decision.
She took to her Twitter page on Thursday (April 18) to express her outrage:
“Shame on TN lawmakers for passing the Ag Gag bill. If Gov. Bill Haslam signs this, he needs to expect me at his front door. Who's with me?”
Then, she sent two tweets to Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam:
“@BillHaslam Please don't sign the Ag Gag bill. Think about the welfare of the animals as well as the consumers. I'm begging you…”
Tennessee State Representative Andy Holt soon caught wind of Carrie’s tweets and sent a message of his own:
@carrieunderwood Have you read the bill? I assume not. You are only going off your HSUS talking points. Use logic, not emotion.
Later, in an interview WSMV Nashville, he went a bit further, blasting, "I would say that Carrie Underwood will stick to singing, I'll stick to lawmaking.”
Doesn’t that sound a tad bit familiar?
Cut to 2003: Dixie Chicks lead singer Natalie Maines bashes former President Bush and is “ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas.” Almost immediately, Country radio boycotted the trio, claiming their comments (upheld by the First Amendment) were unpatriotic. Despite exercising their right to free speech as United States citizens, they paid a price for their opinions, and they never truly recovered. (Note: They had a huge comeback with 2006’s Taking the Long Way, with which they scored three golden gramophones at the 2007 Grammy Awards)
I’m not saying Carrie’s comments will result in such retaliation. Her career will be just fine.
The issue is how flippant her opinions are treated, simply because she’s an entertainer. Much like the Dixie Chicks fiasco, Carrie’s comments are seen as a form treachery and misguided understanding of the issues. Time and time again, lawmakers and politicians have handled singers’ views and opinions with condescending side-eyes and arrogant remarks, claiming artists can’t possibly have a brain of their own. They should just stick to making music, they say.
Since Carrie’s tweets, many other celebrities have come out in full force to support the cause. Wynonna Judd, P!nk, Miley Cyrus’ mother Tish, legendary singer-songwriter Diane Warren and No Doubt’s lead bassist Tony Kanal have all rallied around Carrie, among many more.
Now, dear readers, I would pose these questions to you:
1. Whose side are you on: Carrie or Holt?
2. Will Carrie’s words have any effect on the outcome? And should her opinions have as much weight as any politician’s?
3. Is there a clear line to be drawn between the First Amendment and when that right is abused?
(Photo Credit: MyCannon via Wikipedia)
–To read about the Ag-Gag bill in greater detail, check out these helpful links: