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‘Show Me’ State Compromises on Ag-Gag

With the clock ticking down to adjournment today, the Missouri Senate pulled a surprise late Thursday by not bringing up the so-called “ag-gag” bill but instead passing an omnibus agriculture law with some changes in law that look like an ag-gag compromise.

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After a long day in Jefferson City, the Senate voted 25-5 for final passage of “a House substitute to the Senate substitute of substitute Senate Bill 631,” a grab-bag bill containing a couple dozen separate agricultural measures.  

In the new law, Missouri requires anyone with pictures or video of animal abuse or neglect to share them with law enforcement within 24 hours. The originals remain as property of the owner, who does not have to give them up.

Existing law on trespass is also made a little tougher in the bill, which might represent a deal between animal rights advocates and Missouri agriculture.

Sen. Mike Parson, R-Polk, urged his colleagues to adopt the conference committee report that put the agricultural bill up for a third and final reading in both chambers of the Missouri General Assembly.

After Parson explained the bill, another  senator said language should satisfy those who’ve emailed lawmakers about the so-called “ag-gag” law, House Bill 1860, that was passed earlier in the session by the Missouri House.  

“Share it with law enforcement, and you are done,” Parson, himself a former sheriff, said.

Parson depicted SB 631 as containing about every agricultural item expected to pass this session, but he did not say whether or not HB 1860 would also be brought up.   Earlier in the day, it had cleared the Senate Ways and Means Committee where it had been sent for a last-minute fiscal checkup.

In the lengthy SB 631, covering everything from biodiesel incentive payments to agricultural education in private schools, the penalty for trespass in the first degree is increased to a Class A misdemeanor, from the current Class B. It also adds a definition for “trespasser” to include any person who enters a property without permission or invitation, whether or not the property is posted. 

It gives the property owner to use “justifiable force” to repel a trespasser in the same manner as other current allowances of justifiable force.  It also increases penalties for impersonating a law enforcement officer.

These new provisions in Missouri, however,  fall far short of the definition for “ag-gag” laws.    

New laws were enacted in Iowa and Utah earlier this year that make it a crime for whistleblowers working undercover to take pictures or make videos of animal abuse and neglect.

“Ag-gag” laws containing those provisions were introduced this year in 10 states.

Animal rights groups say “ag-gag” laws would  make “whistle-blowing on factory farms essentially impossible.”   

If Missouri does not bring SB 1860 back up before Friday’s adjournment, “ag-gag” bills will have died in eight states:  Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York, Tennessee, and Missouri.

Two decades ago, Kansas, North Dakota, and Montana passed earlier versions of “ag-gag” laws, but there is no record of those being used.

© Food Safety News
  • http://burningbird.net Shelley

    This is no more a compromise than the “Missouri solution” was a compromise for the legislators overturning the people’s vote on Proposition B.
    Undercover work requires gathering evidence over a period of time, typically ranging from a few weeks to a few months. Otherwise, CAFO owners will just dismiss any filming of an incident as a fluke. It is the body of evidence that is damning, not a video of a single event.
    By being forced to turn over video within 24 hours, the CAFO owner is given heads up they’re being investigated. They clean up their act–and fire whomever they suspect–and nothing is accomplished.
    And ask yourself this: why should video be given up without a subpoena? This isn’t required in any other aspect of life. Point of fact: reporters have gone to jail rather than give up video, or reveal sources.
    In addition, if an employee is required by law to turn over video when they feel they’ve recorded animal abuse, why are they not forced to report the animal abuse–video or not?
    Can you not see clearly what this is about?
    This is a deceptive, devious attempt to enable ag-gag but make it tougher to challenge in court. It’s an end run around the news media’s coverage of ag-gag laws.
    Is there any other law in Missouri that requires people to turn over video of a supposed misdemeanor within 24 hours, or face criminal charges?
    Answer: no.
    Why is it, so many people buy whatever they’re told?
    The same Constitutional concerns should still exist: it is demonstrative of prior restraint, it is counter to the exercise of free speech.

  • http://burningbird.net Shelley

    Though I disagree with your assessment of HB 1860, I did want to say I appreciate you covering the story. You’ve done more than any local news organization in the state.

  • Ted

    Anti-agriculture smear artists resent any idea of turning over footage to law enforcement — why? Isn’t it law enforcement’s job to investigate & prosecute crimes? Aren’t skulking activists really only intent upon operating lawless vigilante smear campaigns. What do they fear from law enforcement? What is it they do not want to be held accountable for if their efforts are so pure as they would have us believe? What are activists hiding? Expose the hidden agendas of anti-agriculture activist and force them to operate legally! What are slimy sneaking smearing activists hiding from us?

  • http://slowmoneyfarm.wordpress.com/ Jan

    Shelley said “By being forced to turn over video within 24 hours, the CAFO owner is given heads up they’re being investigated. They clean up their act–and fire whomever they suspect–and nothing is accomplished.” Wow. Nothing is accomplished?! I thought it was about eliminating cruelty – so if the owner fires the person doing the cruelty and amends what needs done (eliminating cruelty) that isn’t enough. I guess that says clearly it’s not about improving conditions for animals but rather political and media coverage.
    And “And ask yourself this: why should video be given up without a subpoena? This isn’t required in any other aspect of life. ” Because people are accusing of a crime – it’s evidence. And if it’s legitimate then the cruelty should be stopped NOW! Not a month later when there’s a good slot for a press conference! The condemnation and media coverage doesn’t stop the abuse/cruelty – laws (that are existing) DO!

  • http://burningbird.net Shelley

    Jan, they fire the person they suspect of doing the filming.
    Question: if an employee is supposed to turn over video of animal abuse or face a misdemeanor charge, why are they not told to report animal abuse, period?
    Why isn’t there the same misdemeanor charge if an employee just witnesses animal abuse? Why only a recording?
    This is not about eliminating cruelty. This is a fraud, a fake–an ag-gag law pretending to be a compromise but, in actuality, still being an ag-gag law.
    So one incident is filmed and turned over to the MDA (notorious for its support of CAFO owners). They give the CAFO owner a heads up. The CAFO claims the incident is a fluke–not demonstrative of a widespread, sustained problem–fires a few people (person caught on film, who can easily be replaced, and whomever the CAFO owner suspects of filming the incident), waits for the authorities to leave, and then continues on as usual.
    It’s only when investigations show that the CAFO demonstrates sustained abuse–over time–that real action occurs.
    The Missouri legislature knows this, but they’re hoping we’re easily duped.

  • dannielle

    thank goodness someone finally came up with a law that makes sense!
    even a single act of abuse should not be tolerated, and sitting on footage until it’s politically expedient for a group to privately release does not serve the interests of the animals- more are harmed while criminal actions continue unabated.
    the only people protesting the 24 hrs to law enforcement notification rule are those who seek to exploit and profit off misery- and whoa re often found in unedited footage to be encouraging, participating, or responsible for the actions in the first place.
    well done MO! quicker action means animals get help immediately!

  • Estelle

    What are you hiding Shelly that you can’t work with law enforcement? Honest people rely on law enforcement and the justice system to resolve legal issues. Are you not an honest person Shelly? What are you hiding? What is it you don’t want us to know about you and your fellow fanatic agenda-driven vigilantes? Maybe we should send some sneaking scabs to infiltrate your business and set you up for a media lynching? That would only be fair. And a public service, too. Exposing evil rascals is always a noble public service, isn’t it Shelly? Any means to an end, isn’t that how you see it?

  • doug williams

    now Shelly calm down..looks like you approve of abuse over a long period of time in order to prove a point.. is that what you are saying?
    I agree with Jan.. cleaning up their act is what we want , isn’t it?
    if a parent severely beats or abuses child do we wait to turn them in to make sure it is “sustained abuse”?
    i think you have your animal rights hat on backwards.. you should appreciate this law.. not deride it.

  • http://burningbird.net Shelley

    SB 631 just passed. Missouri is officially one of the states with an ag-gag law. Worded differently, but same intent.
    (BTW, it was HB 1860)

  • Old Mac

    Shelly certainly teaches us why we all need legal protection from overzealous animal rights activists. Imagine having an obsessive hate monger like Shelly posting photoshopped videos on the internet trying desperately to ruin you and your family…just because she knows she can get away with it. Well, now she will need to play by some fair rules, in Missouri anyway, and she thinks that is the end of her slimy smarmy world as she know it…and we all sincerely hope it is. More states should tighten up fairness laws to protect farm families.

  • http://burningbird.net Shelley

    And I rest my case that this is another version of an ag-gag law.
    Thank you, other commenters, for proving my point.
    Appreciate it.

  • Old Mac

    I especially like the new right to use “justifiable force” defending against anal retentive activist trespassers. It is about time! I trust law enforcement has proctologists on call to retrieve activists’ video equipment in order for footage to be viewed within the proscribed 24 hours. Maybe bluetooth transmits from within body cavities?

  • Sheneta

    Really! How many times does it have to be said for people to understand. This is not about them wanting to stop the abuse and save these animals. This law is about them putting a stop to people gaining viable evidence of the abuse that’s taking and being able to bring it light. It’s amazing how the penalties set out in this were against the people doing the undercover work. Really! Is that what we have stooped to now? In what other areas of business are whistleblowers being criminalized. No where..they are usually protected until now when it means unveiling this million dollar food business. Wake up people, please!

  • Ruby

    What qualifies Sheneta to perform unbiased and factually accurate “undercover work”? Why should we trust anyone who calls themselves a “whistleblower”? Isn’t undercover work the province of trained police detectives and aren’t whistleblowers so designated after their work has been checked for accuracy? I think Sheneta, like so many other self-anointed hate mongers is too full of herself. So much so, in fact, I can hardly discern Sheneta from Shinola.