On Friday, Idaho Governor, C.L. “Butch” Otter signed into law the latest of the so-called “ag-gag” bills that have been floating through state legislatures over the past few years. This makes Idaho the seventh state in the nation (along with Iowa, Utah, Missouri, North Dakota, Montana and Kansas) to in some form go after individuals who go undercover at industrial farms for the stated purpose of exposing animal abuse and other violations. Under Idaho’s new law, anyone caught secretly filming or taping agricultural operations within the state can face up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine.
Ironically, the new law was prompted by a clandestine video the animal rights group Mercy for Animals released showing horrific abuse of cows at Idaho’s Bettencourt Dairies, one of the largest dairy companies in the country. Once the video became public, Bettencourt fired the employees responsible, with one of them ultimately being charged with and convicted for animal abuse. Despite Bettencourt’s prompt response, however, there apparently was an active campaign to stop people from buying the company’s products, and the company’s owner was supposedly even targeted with death threats.
Proponents of the new ag-gag law point to these acts of retribution as exactly why the new legislation is so important. According to Bob Naerebout, who heads the Idaho Dairymen’s Association that promoted the bill, the purpose is “not to hide anything [but] to address those who get on agriculture operations under false pretenses, with a predetermination to cause injury and economic harm.” Idaho Senator Jim Patrick echoed this concern saying the new law brings relief to farmers around the state. “There are so many things that these groups don’t like. We feel like any one of us could be a target,” he said.
Of course, opponents of the new law have a very different view. They see it as a not-so-veiled attempt to keep hidden what goes on inside factory farms. Nathan Runkle, Mercy for Animals Executive Director, says “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.”
Where do you stand on this newest ag-gag legislation to hit the books? Regardless of whether you ultimately disagree with the law, do you believe there is any legitimate justification to support its enactment?
Please let us know why in the comment section below.
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