Friday, April 15, 2011

3 states have bills to ban undercover farm videos

In March we reported that a Florida bill that would make photographing farm operations without written consent illegal had passed its first hurdle after major amendments. Now Iowa and Minnesota are considering similar bills, The New York Times reports.

"Made by animal rights advocates posing as farm workers, such videos have prompted meat recalls, slaughterhouse closings, criminal convictions of employees and apologies from corporate executives assuring that the offending images are an aberration," writes A.G. Sulzberger, son of Times Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr.

The Iowa bill would "make it a crime to produce, distribute or possess photos and video taken without permission at an agricultural facility. It would also criminalize lying on an application to work at an agriculture facility 'with an intent to commit an act not authorized by the owner.'"

Opponents of the bills say undercover investigations are essential to revealing animal abuse and food safety violations and the bills are an attempt to hide those problems. "It’s because they don’t want you to see what’s going on that we’ve resorted to employee investigations," Wayne Pacelle, the executive director of the Humane Society of the United States, told the Times. An undercover HSUS employee spent 15 days at Rose Acre Farms in Indiana filming hens at an egg producing facility. HSUS released the video, which showed injured and disfigured hens, at a news conference without telling Rose Acre. No crime was alleged but the video portrayed the farm as neglecting the birds.

"Kevin Vinchattle, chief executive of the Iowa Poultry Association, which helped write the bill, suggested that those willing to lie on an application might go further and stage fake videos, destroy equipment or carry diseases onto farms," Sulzberger reports, adding that Vinchattle did not offer any examples of such things ever happening. (Read more)

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