Just weeks after undercover footage revealed disturbing animal cruelty at an Idaho dairy farm, the state has pushed forward a bill to prevent activists from taking footage of animal abuse inside facilities. The measure, dubbed an "ag-gag" law, is Senate Bill 1337, and would make it a crime to photograph or videotape abusive, unsanitary or otherwise unethical activity on a farm in Idaho.
The bill passed in House on Wednesday afternoon with a near party-line split of 56-14, after the Senate backed it 23-10 earlier this month, says AP. Now, the bill is headed for Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's desk. Heavily lobbied for by Idaho's dairy industry, proponents of the bill say they want to protect the property rights of agriculture operations' owners.
Others contend that jailing people for exposing illegal acts is a violation of the First Amendment. Rep. Ilana Rubel, D-Boise, told AP:
"The answer is not to imprison the people who are criticizing you. This would put agriculture in a very unique position to enforce and really shut down the collection of information that they didn't like. It gives them an incredible hammer to lock someone up for a year for taking information they're not supposed to take."
While Utah has passed a similar ag gag law, it is now being challenged in U.S. District Court. Other states have seen similar measures proposed, but have rejected them.
Mercy for Animals, the organization that released the recent undercover footage of calf abuse at an Idaho farm, delivered a petition with 110,000 signatures to Gov. Otter's office Wednesday, asking him to veto the bill.
ACTION GUIDE: 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.)