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Idaho Governor Signs ‘Ag-Gag’ Bill into Law

On Friday, Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter signed into law a controversial bill to protect animal production facilities from outside interference. The law took effect with the governor’s signature.

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
  • Alvin Sewell

    Let the lawsuits begin.

  • deedee

    Absurd! There’s abuse and worse going on, and instead of making better ways to protect the animals, they make “blindfolds” so people can’t see and can’t report what they’ve seen. Maybe the next laws will include not reporting abuse in nursing homes and daycares or schools.
    This is a bad law covering bad people. The helpless deserve a voice!!

  • Kathy Heinisch

    What a load of crap “vegan animals rights activists were more interested in hurting the dairy and its brands than helping animals.” Why is it that anyone with concern in Animals being Humanely raised , handled and slaughtered to produce Safe and wholesome food tagged a “vegan animals rights activist” The great majority of folks opposed to these AG-Gag laws are everyday Consumers that buy AG products. With the advent of the internet ..the world has become a much smaller place, Consumers now seek information on the products they buy..Consumers want transparency, complete transparency..after all we pay & consume these products..No consumer wants meats, eggs or dairy products from animals kept in horrid conditions, overcrowded ,given antibiotics due to overcrowding, inhumanely handled, in some cases intentionally abused, as a Consumer I do not want to support these producers with my hard earned cash. It can not be denied that the food production methods in this country , have some issues, issues the consumers have the right to know about..These laws only further reduce consumer confidence..when producers have to hide behind laws that prosecute whistleblowers that document and expose violations..Consumers will take note..

  • ziggypop

    And the governor is now complicit as an animal abuser. A gutless, soulless animal abuser and please do not tell me he is a Christian.

    • mjpchicago

      He is beyond reprehensible. Read the article in Wikipedia about this redneck in Idaho who said that he wanted to kill the first wolf once they were federally delisted.

      • ericmills

        Hey, Idaho doesn’t have a monopoly on rednecks. Two years ago during a debate on the status of wolves in California (there was ONE at the time), the president of the California Fish & Game Commission, Jim Kellogg, said he’d be happy to shoot a wolf, “only you wouldn’t see a picture of it in the newspapers” (an allusion to the mountain lion shot on a perfectly legal mountain lion hunt by fellow commissioner Dan Richards–which cost Mr. Richards his job, sadly–he was a good commissioner).

    • hunterjinx

      Of course he is. Why wouldn’t he be?
      http://www.gov.idaho.gov/ourgov/index.html

  • tallen2007

    Look up A2 vs A1 milk. Milk sales are way down nationwide. This doesn’t help their cause at all. Maybe Chobani will be moving to a more food and animal friendly (and yogurt and ice cream consuming) state…. I’d suggest Maine or New England. :-)

  • http://burningbird.net Shelley Powers

    I would not be surprised to see Chobani eventually move out of Idaho. I never understood why it would want to move to a state that enshrines survivalists and the Neo-Nazi movement.

    The one advantage to Idaho’s ag-gag law is it isn’t subtle, which means it can be easily challenged as Unconstitutional. Specifically, the provision related to employees most likely would not survive a court challenge.

    As for the rest, there are already trespass laws. What, the food producers in Idaho are too stupid to know this?

    But the Chobani CEO knows what’s really at stake: boycotts. It’s not difficult to ascertain Idaho companies. And nowadays, it’s just not difficult to find the same products these companies sell, made elsewhere.

  • Oginikwe

    Cruelty is profitable. When it stops being profitable, the cruelty will stop.

  • commentcommentator

    Chobani should leave the state and take its business elsewhere.

  • http://beaelliott.blogspot.com/ Bea Elliott

    “Awareness is bad for the meat business. Conscience is bad for the meat business. Sensitivity to life is bad for the meat business. DENIAL (and secrecy), however, the meat business finds indispensable.” -John Robbins, Diet for a New America

  • http://transmissiblespongiformencephalopathy.blogspot.com/ Terry S. Singeltary Sr.

    what about our children via the NSLP ?

    do they even matter anymore ?

    I ASSURE ALL CONSUMERS, THE INDUSTRY FLAT OUT DOES NOT CARE WHAT THEY FEED YOU, AS LONG AS IT MAKES MONEY.

    IF not for these undercover videos, we would have never known that for 4
    years, our children all across the nation, from state to state, county to
    county, and school to school, the NSLP via USDA inc, fed or children the most
    high risk cattle for mad cow type disease, and other deadly pathogens, they fed
    them dead stock downer cows, and then hid this 50 year nightmare (incubation for
    cjd up to 50 years), under the guise of a recall for animal abuse, one of the
    largest meat recalls in USA history was ordered. I ask again, what about child
    abuse ?

    OR, recently again, by another secret video, cattle with cancer, sick and
    diseases cattle, from a more recent recall. cattle with cancer of the eyes,
    heads chopped off, no problem, no cancer no more, put them in commerce, and feed
    them out.

    THE ONLY FOLKS COMMITTING AN ACT OF TERRORISM, ARE THE POLITICIANS IN BED
    WITH THE LOBBYIST, THAT SUPPORT LEGISLATION THAT BANS THE VIDEO TAPPING OF THESE ATROCITIES.

    SEE IF ONE OF YOUR CHILDREN WILL HAVE TO WAIT 50 YEARS TO SEE IF THEY
    CONSUMED A PRION DISEASE AKA MAD COW DISEASE.

    IF THEY DO, AND GOD I HOPE THEY DON’T, BUT IF THEY DO, YOU CAN THANK THE
    LIKES OF POLITICIANS LIKE U.S. Representatives Devin Nunes, Kevin McCarthy, and
    Jeff Denham.

    I assure you, they did not have the largest beef recall in US history (at that time), due to animal abuse.

    Subject: nslp deadstock downers recall school by school, state by state

    http://downercattle.blogspot.com/2013/09/school-food-authorities-affected-by.html

    Monday, March 3, 2014

    Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter of Idaho signs bill that will force consumers to
    eat dead stock downers and whatever else the industry decides

    http://downercattle.blogspot.com/2014/03/gov-cl-butch-otter-of-idaho-signs-bill.html

  • Kitz

    We are losing our Constitutional freedoms, one by one. This is outrageous.

  • susanrudnicki

    Butch Otter (what a euphemism—the otters are cringing…) has just got in so-called “Wildlife Services” (another renegade fiefdom Federal agency) to gun down by helicopter 23 wolves in his state. He is on a war with the apex predators that hunters and livestock grazers want annihilated. Never mind how the situation in Yellowstone, with ungulates grazing the riparian habitats to a desert, was documented to return to lush normalcy after wolves were introduced to keep grazers in check. Mr Butch is obviously a uneducated, typical politician.

  • Michael Noel

    Inform your members of congress, (for whatever good that will do) and let them know that food safety is tantamount to national security. Stand up and let your voices be heard!

  • Granny G

    One easy fix might be to refuse to buy animal products from ag-gag states, or from companies with financial interests in such states…and post on the Net who you boycott…and send a copy of that decision and of any responses you may receive–or at least the running total of pro and con reponses to the financially interested companies and state representatives. And to Food Safety News. Boycotting works..but it works best if those being boycotted know they are being boycotted and why. One important benefit of Food Safety News is that FSN probably can provide us the names of such states and such financially interested companies–if FSN were asked nicely.
    So I’m asking nicely. FSN…will you publish a permanently linked listing of states and companies involved in ag-gag, and keep it updated, for us? It would be a practical benefit to readers.
    AG-GAG STATES-AG-GAG COMPANIES & PRODUCTS. (As you stated above, Chobani “broke with” the Idaho dairy industry who apparently supported the Ag-Gag bill to be signed into law. So let’s put Chobani on the BUY side and any other products with Idaho on the label as BAN.

    • Terri

      I would like to see a list of states and companies involved in ag-gag. Boycotting is a great idea!

  • Terri

    I just called Governor Otter’s office and expressed my disgust with this issue. As a human being we are to protect people and animals that don’t have a voice. I don’t know if he saw a few videos where a worker was talking how moist a cow’s hole was and saying should I f— her. Animals being beaten and dragged. We have laws in this country to protect people and animals from others that do not act in a humane way. By signing this bill, he has now allowed and condoned some people to act in an inhumane way. I do not live in Idaho, but if I did he would not get my vote. I hope the people from Idaho do the right thing and express their concern to the governor’s office. Also, don’t vote for him come the next election. I understand people have to make a living; however, that does not mean people should not be held accountable for their actions. Shame on Governor Otter!

  • SickOfPolitics

    I love to support local industry, but Idaho animal farmers have just been crossed off my list. Time to turn to California, where there are protections against this heinous behavior. Gov Otter is a piece of sh#%!

  • Carrie Fischer

    This is deplorable. I live in Idaho, and I had no idea this was passed into law until reading this article. Obviously, these dairy farmers and their big money bought out politicians in the Capitol. This is a Republican “red” state and it shows in this legislation. These farmers don’t want to lose their income due to exposure of their abuse, and they used their money to get something to protect themselves financially at the expense of poor innocent farm animals being abused. I suggest we all write our Federal government to demand this stop nationwide and be ruled unconstitutional across the board. Those who do not have a voice should not be silenced due to the love of the almighty American dollar at their expense. Are we going to start putting gag laws into effect now when children are abused and videotaped in foster homes? This country is becoming less and less about transparency and more about rewarding criminals by covering up their heinous crimes.