States Seek Curbs on Recording of Farm-Animal Abuse

Some states would make it a crime to secretly record agricultural operations
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Legislatures in at least four states are considering bills that would require recordings of farm-animal abuse be turned over to law enforcement almost immediately after such videos are taken, or face penalties, and at least six states are considering bills that would make it illegal to record such videos. Animal-rights activists say both efforts are attempts to halt the documentation of the abuse of farm animals.
Bills in California, Nebraska, New Hampshire and Tennessee seek to force those who record video of farm animals being abused to surrender the video to authorities within 24–48 hours of the alleged abuse, which animal welfare advocates say would prevent them from documenting further animal abuse at a facility.
In addition, bills in Arkansas, Indiana, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Utah and Wyoming seek to make it illegal to record videos at agricultural operations.
The Arkansas bills (SB13 and SB14) were both introduced by Republican state Sen. Gary Stubblefield. SB13 seeks to amend the state’s animal cruelty law to make an “improper animal investigation” by someone who is not a “certified law enforcement officer” a Class B misdemeanor with the potential for a civil penaty of $5,000. SB14 would make recording images or sound from an agricultural operation without consent, and obtaining access to that operation under “false pretenses,” Class A or B misdemeanors.
The California bill (AB 343) was introduced by Assembly Member Jim Patterson, R, and has the support of the California Cattlemen’s Association. It “would require anyone who willfully photographs, records or videotapes animal cruelty to submit the photographs or video to both local law enforcement and the owner of the animal within 48 hours of taking the footage.”
The Indiana bills (SB373 and SB391) were introduced by different lawmakers, but both bills seek to make it a crime to record video or sound on an agricultural operation without permission, but with some differences. State Sen. Travis Holdman, R, introduced SB373 that would make it unlawful to record agricultural or industrial operations, including photographs or video recordings, but would exempt anyone from prosecution who turns the video or photos over to law enforcement within 48 hours. However, the exemption is lost if the material is shared with a party outside of law enforcement like a newspaper or television station. State Sen. Carlin Yoder, R, introduced SB391 that not only seeks to make it unlawful to record agricultural operations, but require the Indiana Board of Animal Health to maintain a registry of persons convicted of such crimes.
The Nebraska bill (LB204), introduced by state Sen. Tyson Larson, R, would make it a misdemeanor to not report incidents of animal cruelty within 24 hours of the incident and include “all original documentation, or copies thereof, including video, photographs and audio, which is evidence of animal abandonment, cruel neglect or cruel treatment” in the report.
The New Hampshire bill (HB110), introduced by Rep. Robert Haefner, R, requires “persons who record cruelty to livestock to report such cruelty and submit such recordings to a law enforcement agency.”
The New Mexico bill (SB552), introduced by state Sen. Cliff Pirtle, R, would make it a crime to record video or sound on an agricultural operation without permission, or to even obtain access to that operation to take video.
The Pennsylvania bill (HB683), introduced by Rep. Gary Haluska, D, would make recording images or sound from an agricultural operation without consent and obtaining access to that operation under “false pretenses,” second or third degree felonies.
The Tennessee bills (SB1248 and HB1191), introduce by Sen. Dolores Gresham and by Rep. Andy Holt, both Republicans, would require anyone who records cruelty to animals to submit unedited photographs or video recordings to law enforcement within 24 hours.
The Utah bill (HB187), introduced by Rep. John Mathis, R, would make it crime to record video or take photographs on a farmer’s property without permission.
The Wyoming bill (HB126), introduced in the House by Rep. Sue Wallis, R, would make it a crime to record images or sounds of an agricultural operation with concealed devices without the owner’s consent. However, anyone who reports animal abuse to local police “within 48 hours” would be exempt from civil liability. The criminal penalties for those convicted are listed in the bill as up to six months in jail and a $750 fine. The bill passed the House on Feb. 5, and has been taken up in the Senate by state Sen. Ogden Driskill, R.

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