Late last month, Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter signed into law a measure that makes it a crime, punishable by up to a year in prison, for someone not authorized to be in an "agricultural production facility" to "make audio or video recordings of the conduct" inside that facility. Under the new law, the "guilty" party is required to pay damages for the "injury" caused to the facility's owners by publishing those recordings. The idea is to bluntly dissuade animal advocates or journalists from secretly taping the grim work at these places.
"The problem we have here," one state lawmaker who supported the new Idaho law said last month, "is you can be tried and convicted in the press or on YouTube."
The law's enactment comes nearly three years after the Boise Weekly published an award-winning investigative series about Idaho dairies and the "high levels of drugs found in cattle." It comes about 18 months after the newspaper published graphic video showing dairy workers kicking and beating cows inside a barn.
Indeed, one could argue that the most serious "problem we have here" in Idaho - and in other states with significant "agricultural production facilities" and powerful agriculture lobbies - is not so much the scourge of unfair publicity but the fact that too many employees working around animals are abusing or neglecting them, often grotesquely so, in a way that jeopardizes the safety of the food we eat and the milk we drink. The new Idaho law won't solve that problem; it will only make it worse by punishing those people who seek to bring this cruelty out into the open.
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