Several states, including Minnesota, Iowa and Florida, are considering legislation that would make it a felony for activists and journalists to carry out undercover investigations of agribusiness operations, punishable by up to 30 years in prison. Kansas and Montana already have similar laws in place.
What does it all mean? Well, here’s a bit of perspective: One hundred years ago, Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle,” a horrifying exposé of the meatpacking industry, led to the creation of America’s first food and drug regulations. Today, it would land the author in jail. Now that’s progress! —YL
The New York Times:
—A bill introduced in the Minnesota House in early April punishes not only videographers who pose as workers and record the inhumane treatment of animals, but also those who distribute said videos. The bill seeks to make it a felony to disrupt operations at factory farms, a component intended to punish activists and protesters. One of the sponsors is Rep. Rod Hamilton, a former president of the Minnesota Pork Producers.
—The Iowa House and Senate have approved a bill sponsored by Rep. Annette Sweeney, a Republican and a former executive director of the Iowa Angus Association, that would not only punish whistleblowers but also those who take jobs for the sole purpose of exposing abuses. Those convicted could face five years in prison. Rep. Sweeney said she believes this bill will encourage people to report abuses: “As a livestock producer, I want people to feel if they see something going on this bill empowers them.” People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, begs to differ: “They’re trying to criminalize someone being an eyewitness to a crime,” Jeff Kerr, the organization’s general counsel, said. The measure was introduced after humane groups released videos showing chicks being ground alive and pigs being beaten and shocked.
—A bill proposed by Florida state senator Jim Norman would make it a first-degree felony to photograph a farm without written permission from the owner. The bill is currently in the criminal justice committee of the state senate. The maximum prison time for a first-degree felony in Florida is 30 years.