One of the best tools the animal protection movement has against factory farming is the truth, and a picture is worth a thousand words. But special interests are trying to take those tools away from activists in Iowa and Florida by trying to ban the making of undercover factory farming videos.
Iowa: In Iowa, H.F.589 creates the crime of "animal facility interference" for shooting a photo or video without the facility owner's consent, and "animal facility fraud" for those who obtain employment at a farm for the purpose of shooting undercover photos and videos. Supporters of the Iowa bill claim that the videos are frequently staged and that trespassers shooting undercover videos will spread diseases to the livestock. Trespass laws already address the problem of trespassers, and if the videos are staged, why should anyone care about undercover videos? The bill has already passed the House in Iowa, and will go to the Senate next. Matt Rice of Mercy for Animals points out:
Legislation should focus on strengthening animal cruelty laws, not prosecuting those who blow the whistle on animal abuse . . . If producers truly cared about animal welfare, they would offer incentives to whistleblowers, install cameras at these facilities to expose and prevent animal abuse, and they would work to strengthen animal abuse laws to prevent animals from needless suffering.
What you can do in Iowa: Iowa residents can contact their state senators, and ask them to oppose H.F.589. You can find your Iowa state legislators here, along with their contact information. The Humane Society of the US recommends making a phone call first, then following up with an email. If you're in a hurry, you can use their webform.
Florida: In Florida, S.B.1246 was introduced to prohibit farm photography without the owner's consent. It was quickly called unconstitutional, but a new version of the bill has just passed out of the Senate Agriculture Committee. The new version has exceptions for law enforcement and other government agents, and now specifies that the photographer must enter the property without the owner's consent to be in violation of the law. And a violation is now a misdemeanor, and no longer a first degree felony. These changes address some of the concerns about the original bill, but Jeff Kerr, an attorney for PETA, believes the new version is still unconstitutional.
Bottom line? Whether or not it's unconstitutional, these bills†are wrong and dangerous because criminalizing the making of undercover videos protects the animal abusers and hides illegal activity from the public. These bills would also prohibit journalists from shooting undercover videos, and even prohibit the farms' own employees from making undercover videos of animal cruelty, unsafe work conditions and other illegal activity.
- Photograph a Farm in Florida, Go to Jail
- Undercover Video of Cruelty at Iowa Hatchery
- Undercover Video of Pig Cruelty in Iowa
- Factory Farming FAQ