Undercover video bans appealing to farmers, not so to activist groups

WOOSTER, Ohio — At least two states are in the process of enacting legislation that will prevent animal rights activists from producing videos and taking pictures on private farms without the owner’s consent.

In response to videos and images they feel are misleading and purposefully against livestock farming, state legislators in Iowa and Florida are considering ways to charge would-be perpetrators with misdemeanors and felonies.

Moving along

One measure passed the Iowa House March 17 with a vote of 66 in favor, and 27 against. The bill — Senate File 431 — passed the Iowa Senate Agriculture committee with unanimous approval. A vote by the full senate is pending.

In Florida, Senate Bill 1246 seeks to make it a first degree misdemeanor to “enter onto a farm or other property where legal agricultural operations are being conducted and produce audio or video records without the written consent of the owner or an authorized representative.” U.S. Dept. of Agriculture officials and law enforcement are excluded.

It passed the Senate Agriculture Committee unanimously on March 21.

Animal rights organizations say farmers must have something to hide if they want to ban such videos and audio. But farm leaders in those states say it’s not so.

“We absolutely believe that animals ought to be given the best care possible,” said Tom Shipley, director of Iowa Cattlemen’s Association. “We have nothing to hide, but we don’t believe that people ought to be recording information they can edit for their own political agenda.”

Timely reports

Shipley is part of a host of supporters who say the bill ensures animal abuse gets reported to the farm owner or supervisor promptly — not retained for a campaign video or a publicized media event.

“If they’re (activists) concern is really with the animals versus fundraising and to disparage agriculture, why aren’t they coming forward immediately with these things,” asks Kevin Vinchattle, Iowa Poultry Association CEO.

Employees often sign a document that they will report abuse to the farm owner or supervisor in a timely manner — but Shipley and Vinchattle say it’s sometimes several weeks or months later that the report is made.

“We want it reported immediately and not for a political agenda,” Shipley said.

The Iowa bill was sponsored by state Rep. Annette Sweeney, R-Alden. She said the bill adds to the safety and well-being of farm animals because it holds employees accountable.

Under the proposed law, people can be prosecuted for lying to gain access to the farm, causing damage to its animals or property, or participating in any abuse to animals.

Animal rights organizations rely on secretly recorded videos to inform the public of what they say is abuse on America’s factory farms. They say the bills are an attempt to silence whistleblowers and vow to fight for the right to continue filming.

In his daily blog, Humane Society of the United States CEO Wayne Pacelle says the bills are a cover-up. He argues that his organization needs such videos to continue its work.

“Our exposes aren’t just important for raising public awareness about the mistreatment of animals,” he wrote. “HSUS investigations have led to the largest meat recall in U.S. history, misdemeanor and felony cruelty convictions, closure of rogue slaughter plants, and disciplinary actions for government inspectors not doing their jobs. None of these important services we fulfill would be possible if such far-reaching and stifling laws are enacted.”

Powerful tool

Gene Baur, president of Farm Sanctuary, told his followers “capturing images of abuse is a powerful tool for change, and in many cases, has led to amendments in laws and policies to protect farm animals.”

Animal Agriculture Alliance — a national organization that works to inform media and consumers about modern farming, says “activist groups have capitalized on the growing rural-urban disconnect by using highly edited, emotionally charged images to advance a political agenda that is decidedly anti-animal agriculture.”

The organization takes issue with the loosely used term “factory farm,” saying 98 percent of the nation’s farms are still family owned. It faults extreme activism for “systematically working to put farmers out of business while increasing the cost of meat, milk and eggs” until they become unaffordable.

Free press

Shipley said another concerned party are members of the media, who wonder whether the bill would infringe on free press rights. He said media would still be allowed to take pictures and videos, including from the road.

But they would need permission if on the farmer’s property.

About the Author

Chris Kick lives in Wooster, Ohio. An American FFA Degree recipient, he holds a bachelor’s in creative writing from Ashland University. He spends his free time on his grandparents’ farms in Wayne and Holmes counties. More Stories by Chris Kick

13 Comments

  1. Terry Ward says:

    EVERYBODY says”farmers must have something to hide if they want to ban such videos and audio”

    Everybody !

  2. KeithC says:

    Wrong – Not everyone says that Terry. No one should have the right to video tape, record or photograph anything without consent. For some people it ties back to their religious belief’s, their are many reasons why it should only be done with consent. It’s not about hiding anything. If you don’t support banning it then please be the leader and step up to the plate. If YOU have nothing to hide, install 24/7 camera’s in your home and so anyone on the internet can see what YOUR doing. How do we know your not abusing your LITTLE BLACK DOGS.

    • moo says:

      Thanks for speaking up for us language less ones. Any recreation of our image without a release form is pure exploitation by these money grubbing PETA people. Kudos for standing up for our religious freedom too because we believe photographs steal bits of our soul and all we ever agreed to was to be treated like terrorists all our short lives before being sacrificed for your culinary ecstasy. Yum.

    • FED-UP &PO'd farmer says:

      Remember, Keith-these AR goons are “above” us-they have different standards for themselves…its OK for them to deprive others of their rights and freedoms, but not themselves. They are pathetic hippocrits. If they werent trying so hard to deceive the public, they’d be waving their communist flags and shouting for the government to seize all farms and make them state farms.

  3. Terry Ward says:

    When I begin selling my dogs to the public for food and accepting subsidies from the Gov. AND THE TAXPAYERS I will be delighted to install cameras.

    • KeithC says:

      I don’t receive subsidies from the Gov or any tax payer, I don’t sell my animals for food yet you state that I should allow you on my farm. I think not. Just because I don’t raise traditional “Farm” animals my farm is still a farm, and not a factory one.

      • Terry Ward says:

        We have zero interest in visiting your farm.
        If you do it right, who cares?
        If you are not an abusive factory farm, no one cares about you.

      • KeithC says:

        Yet you back legislation and regulations that affect all animal owners, not just ones that doing thing incorrectly. You see, the rules apply to all of us, and most times, legislation/regulation introduced by HSUS, PETA, MFA, etc are biased to focus on only those of us that do what we are supposed to, they are written with nothing to stop or punish those that truely do abuse animals. Prime example – Prob B in Mo. nowhere did establish any penalties against true, unregulated breeders, it only affected the regulated kennels.

  4. Kudos to Florida and Iowa for leading the way with this long overdue legislation. The animal rights extremists have made a very profitable business out of these so-called “undercover investigations”. If anyone took the time to carefully watch the video of the Conklin Dairy Farms that was on YouTube last May, you’d have heard the person who was abusing those cows telling the guy behind the camera what he was going to do next. No one will ever convince me that the camera man wasn’t a party to it and that the whole thing wasn’t a setup from the day the abuser first got himself hired. I was disappointed that the prosecutor didn’t follow the trail back to the organization that hired both of those men and file charges against the organization for paying people to commit cruelty to animals.

    • FED-UP &PO'd farmer says:

      Polly-the camera man ADMITTED to abusing the cattle-he said it was to “Keep his cover”. One other thing of importance…SEVERAL farmers recognized him as a person they had employed earlier-he had only worked at their farm for a week or two then abruptly left without warning. (under different names) Without doubt, he had been trying to video tape cruelty at their farms-but had been “unsucessful”. Again, without doubt, he was getting frustrated that he was unable to get his footage, so he goaded Greggs into abusing the cattle by abusing them himself. How many of these other farms was video taken that showed NO abuse??? The animal rights trash doesnt want you to know-they want everyone to think that ALL farms are cruel to their animals. One more reason to get legislation passed. By the way, it wouldnt surprise me one bit if Greggs was paid to do this…If they paid nearly $200,000 to a person to testify for them in a circus case, just what would they pay someone to actually commit abuse-coincidentally just in time for a ballot initiative???

  5. Terry Ward says:

    KeithC seems to want to believe we are the enemy.
    This is very silly.
    He ignores our posts and wishes only to find a point of disagreement.

    Terry Ward said:
    April 7, 2011 at 8:51 am
    John, your decision to become a vegan is to be respected.

    But to demand this of others is unrealistic and impractible.

    This forum is primarily a place for farmers and ranchers.
    To come here and preach veganism is, I believe, irresponsible.

    Not only do vegans represent less than 1% of the population, these are people who feed 99% of the population.

    We must fight inhumane conditions in farms with all our energy.

    But to fight to put farmers out of business is also inhumane.

    And an unbelievably ridulous waste of time and energy.

    Fight the bad farmers, support the good ones.

    This is the only way to help animals.

    http://www.farmanddairy.com/news/ohio-care-board-reverses-veal-decision-allows-calves-to-turn-around/23409.html

    • KeithC says:

      No Terry, I know you belong to the very Animal Rights organization I oppose. I can go back and pull many of your quotes from this site where you oppose farm animals and I have read your quotes on many more sites. If HSUS truely cared about Animal Welfare they would work with business’/organizations that openly stand for Animal Welfare, not fight against them to ban, over regulate them out of business.

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