“Ag-Gag” Law Passes In Idaho, Stops Whistleblowers From Exposing Cruelty

Despite vocal outcry, Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter of Idaho signed into law a bill that would make it illegal for journalists, activists and employees to footage animal abuse inside farms and slaughterhouse. The law was recently passed by the state's Senate and House of Representatives.

Lobbied heavily by dairy farmers in the state, the bill came in response to footage released by animal rights group Mercy for Animals that showed workers at an Idaho dairy farm beating, stomping, dragging and sexually abusing cows in 2012, AP reports.

Idaho's $2.5 billion dairy industry complained the group used its videos not to curb abuse, but to unfairly hurt Bettencourt's business. Bettencourt operates dairies at numerous locations that include more than 60,000 cows and is one of the largest dairy companies in the U.S. Otter, a rancher, said the measure will help make agriculture producers more secure in their property and their livelihood.

"My signature today reflects my confidence in their desire to responsibly act in the best interest of the animals on which that livelihood depends," Otter said in a statement. "No animals rights organization cares more or has more at stake than Idaho farmers and ranchers do in ensuring that their animals are healthy, well-treated and productive."

Now, nine states including Idaho have passed these controversial laws -- Mother Jones has a handy map showing them and other states with pending and failed laws. In Idaho, anyone caught filming agricultural operations can face up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine.

Animal advocates say that not only is the bill a violation of the First Amendment, it also prevents people from exposing and remedying animal cruelty in slaughterhouses.

Mercy For Animals spoke out against Otter's signature, saying that it transforms Idaho into "a safe haven for animal abuse."

"Gov. Otter has failed Idaho and the American people," said the group's executive director, Nathan Runkle, in a statement. "By signing this bill into law, he has sided with those who seek to keep Idaho's corrupt factory farming practices hidden from public view and created a safe haven for animal abuse and other criminal activity in the state."

ACTION ALERT: Factory Farming

An increasing number of people are concerned about the industrial production of meat -- the environmental impact, the potential health drawbacks and the needless suffering of millions of animals. If you are interested in trying to find meat that has not been produced in a factory farm, try Sustainable Table'sEat Well Guide. The USDA provides this guide to finding local farmers markets.You can also shop products that have the Animal Welfare Approved sticker, or a number label from the Global Animal Partnership (5 is the hightest and best). The different labels can be confusing, though -- the HSUS created this helpful primer on the major ones. For humanely gathered eggs, we recommend this organic scorecard; for fish, the Monterey Aquarium's Seafood Watch is a great guide. (Of course, the most humane meat is no meat at all -- here are some great tips on vegetarian and vegan eating.)