Recently legislation has been proposed in Florida and Iowa that will directly affect animal agriculture if passed.
A recent article from Food Safety News shared the following information about the proposed legislation in the two states:
“Senator Jim Norman (R) of Florida proposed the legislation, SB 1246, on Feb. 21, 2011. The bill provides that:
[a] person who photographs, video records, or otherwise produces images or pictorial records, digital or otherwise, at or of a farm or other property where legitimate agriculture operations are being conducted without the written consent of the owner, or an authorized representative of the owner, commits a felony of the first degree.”
“The bill goes on to define a farm as “any tract of land cultivated for the purpose of agricultural production, the raising and breeding of domestic animals, or the storage of a commodity.” No vote has been taken yet on the bill.”
“Although the bill aims to prevent people from posing as agricultural workers in order to capture farming operations with hidden cameras, some believe that the law, if passed as introduced, could also criminalize even the innocent, roadside photography of farms.”
“Yet, despite those beliefs, many farmers fully support passage of the bill in order to restore the damaged image of the American agricultural industry. Farmers maintain that it will allow them to do their job without worrying about the potential for widespread dissemination of propaganda-style videos and photographs that instill fear and distrust in consumers. They want to prevent the production of images that may display an unfair perspective of farming operations.”
“On the other hand, opponents of the bill are outraged, arguing that, if passed, it would be a major step in the wrong direction for transparency in the food system.”
“Also considering similar legislation is the state of Iowa. Introduced on March 2, 2011, the Iowa bill, House File 589, would amend the Iowa Code to make it illegal to:
act without the consent of the owner of an animal facility to willfully . . . [p]roduce a record which reproduces an image or sound occurring at the animal facility . . . [or] [p]ossess or distribute a record which produces an image or sound occurring at the animal facility.”
“Thursday, the Republican-controlled Iowa House passed the bill 66-27; it is uncertain how it will be received by the Senate.”
“Supporters of the Iowa measure maintain that by banning the recording of sounds and images in animal facilities, it will encourage people to report abuses through the proper channels so violations can be handled effectively. In addition, proponents are hopeful that it will also deter activists from publicizing images that may be misleading or inaccurate simply to promote an agenda. Many others disagree.”
With all this talk about restricting access of outsiders I thought it’d be good to watch a video from Ohio Farm Bureau Federation Vice President Mike Bungarner explains why it is important for todays farmers to share information about food production with the consumer from the Ohio Animal Welfare Symposium on October 16, 2009.
Will these proposed bills make consumers suspicious of farmers and ranchers? Will they think we have something to hide? Research has shown that media has a strong effect on consumer perception. Media coverage on animal welfare issues (mainly prompted by animal rights propaganda undercover video) has triggered some consumers to purchase less meat and lose confidence in the way their food is produced. These proposed legislative initiatives could potentially be seen as another avenue for animal rights groups to target animal agriculture, twisting the true intentions of the bills around and making animal agriculture out to be the bad guy. This can already be seen happening in HSUS president, Wayne Pacelle’s latest blog post, “Lights, Camera, Cover-up?“
I hope before this legislation is passed, all aspects and possible pros and cons are considered to make sure that this is the best option for animal agriculture. My fear is that though legislators may have the best of intentions with these bills, they may ultimately be opening up a can of worms.