Exposing Animal Abuse Now Unlawful
An undercover video taped in 2012 showed Idaho dairy workers beating cows, prompting criminal convictions. State lawmakers responded — by banning undercover videos.
Activists citing the right to free speech want the Idaho law struck down, and a federal judge may rule on the case next month. The challenge is part of the pushback against rules in at least seven states, known to their opponents as “ag-gag laws,” that prohibit documenting conditions on animal farms. At the same time, lawmakers proposed new bills limiting documentation of farm conditions in five more states this year.
Conservative lawmakers are pushing these new restrictions with the strong support and the close oversight of the industries involved. They are not hesitant to use over-the-top arguments to make their case.
The Idaho law was drafted by a lawyer for the state’s dairy association. It made it a crime to interfere with agricultural production by gaining employment under false pretenses and making audio or video recordings without permission. The law took effect immediately after Republican Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter signed it on Feb. 28, 2014.
“Terrorism has been used for centuries to destroy the ability to produce food and the confidence in food’s safety,” Jim Patrick, a Republican state senator who sponsored the bill, said of the legislation at the time. “This is how you combat your enemies.”
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