The introductions of new bills in Arkansas and Indiana bring the number of states where legislatures will be considering measures about interference with livestock and poultry operations to five.
A national spokeswoman for animal agriculture says such legislative proposals should be labeled as “farm protection” measures, not “ag-gag” bills as opponents call them.
“Nothing gets animal rights activists all a-flutter like a good Farm Protection bill,” says Emily Metz Meredith, writing i. Meredith says animal agriculture has “faced off against the likes of HSUS, PETA, Mercy for Animals and ASPCA over the state bills.”
She asks why animal activist groups are so interested in Farm Protection or “Ag-gag” bills. “Theanswer is simple—this legislation would destroy any opportunities the above-referenced groups would have to film, photograph or other wise exploit farmers, ranchers and processors.” Meredith says.
The Arkansas Legislature will actually take up two bills: senate bills 13 and 14. The first, SB 13, is a rewrite of the state’s animal cruelty law. It contains new language that makes an “improper animal investigation” by someone who is not a “certified law enforcement officer” a Class B misdemeanor with the potential for a civil penaty of $5,000.
SB 14 would make interference of livestock or poultry operations either a Class A or B misdemeanor. It would prohibit image or sound recording, either by concealing equipment or trespass, and applying for livestock or poultry employment for the purpose of doing underground.
Indiana also has two bills under consideration, SB 373 and SB 391. The three-page SB 373 makes it unlawful to record agricultural or industrial operations, including photographs or video recordings. The ten-page SB 391 also makes it unlawful to record agricultural operations and requires the Indiana Board of Animal Health to maintain a registry of persons convicted of such crimes.
Farm protection, or “ag-gag” bills are also getting legislative attention in New Hampshire, Nebraska and Wyoming. This the second legislative season in a row during which agricultural interests have pushed these kinds of bill. Animal activists stopped most of them, but new laws were in enacted in Iowa, Utah and Missouri.
Meredith says if animal activists “truly cared about animal welfare, then they wouldn’t wait one second to report a valid issue to property authorities.”
“These bills not only encourage the reporting of legitimate incidences of animal abuse, but they mandate that it occurs within a short time frame—in most cases 24 hours, “ she wrote. While true for the first three bills, the quick reporting requirement appears to be missing from the latest bills, at least as introduced.
“Ag-gag” bills make whistle blowing on factory farms “essentially impossible,” according to HSUS. It opposes what it says are requiring mandatory reporting with “impossibly short timelines so that no pattern of abuse can be documented.”
The first bills to shield farm and ranch operations from viewing by unwanted outsiders were signed into law more than 20 years by Kansas, North Dakota and Montana. No prosecutions are known to have resulted.© Food Safety News