Otter signed Senate Bill 1337 just after Chobani yogurt founder Hamdi Ulukaya broke with the rest of the $2.4-billion Idaho dairy industry by asking the governor to veto the bill. Ulukaya told the governor that S. 1337 “would limit transparency and make some instances of exposing the mistreatment of animals in the state punishable by imprisonment.”
The governor, in signing the bill, said Idaho agricultural producers must be “secure in their property and their livelihood.”
Idaho is the seventh state to adopt so-called “ag-gag” provisions to their agriculture protection laws. They include prohibitions on falsifying employment applications and surreptitiously taking pictures or making videos. Animal-rights activists say the prohibitions are deliberately designed to silence or “gag” anyone attempting to collect evidence.
Idaho joins Iowa, Utah and Missouri in passing recent “ag-gag” laws. Three other states, North Dakota, Montana and Kansas, adopted the first generation of such measures during the 1990-91 legislative seasons.
The Gem State dairy industry was stung in 2012 when Los Angeles-based Mercy for Animals sent an undercover operative into Idaho’s Bettencourt Dairy and produced videos showing animals being abused and sexually molested. Five hourly dairy employees were quickly fired and ultimately charged with, and convicted for, animal abuse.
In pushing back, the Idaho Dairymen’s Association said the 2012 incident was not just about prosecuting animal abuse. Dairymen testifying for the bill said the animals-rights activists were more interested in hurting the dairy and its brands than in helping animals.
Idaho’s new law came together very quickly. It was first introduced on Feb. 11 and was signed into law on Feb. 28. More than 100,000 animal-rights advocates from around the country signed a petition asking Otter to veto the bill. They are not happy.
“Not only will this ag-gag law perpetuate animal abuse, it endangers workers’ rights, consumer health and safety, and the freedom of journalists, employees, and the public at large to share information about something as fundamental as our food supply,” said Nathan Runkle, executive director of Mercy for Animals. “This law is bad for consumers, who want more, not less, transparency in food production.”
Chobani opened the world’s largest yogurt plant last year in southern Idaho. In asking that Otter veto S. 1337, Ulukaya said it “could cause the general public concern and conflicts with our views and values.”© Food Safety News