If a new Minnesota bill becomes law, anyone caught going undercover to film or record animal abuses at a factory farm could be sentenced to five years in jail.
Minnesota Joins Iowa And Florida In Criminalizing Animal Activists
As Care2′s Mac McDaniel wrote, both Iowa and Florida are also proposing similar laws.
In Iowa, Senate File 431 and House File 589 create new penalties for wide range of activities, including undercover investigations. They prohibit anyone from producing, possessing, or distributing a record of a “visual or audio experience occurring at [an] animal facility.”
In Florida, Senate Bill 1426 would make photographing a farm without the written consent of the owner a first-degree felony.
Legislation Cracks Down On Activists Who Have Exposed Animal Abuses
The legislation proposed in Minnesota attempts to crack down on activists who have exposed repeated animal welfare violations. Among its provisions, the bill targets anyone who documents an “image or sound” of animal suffering in a sweeping list of “animal facilities,” including factory farms, animal experimentation labs, and puppy mills.
Guilty Of “Eco-Terrorism” and “Animal Enterprise Terrorism”
According to Will Potter, author of Green Is the New Red: An Insider’s Account of a Social Movement Under Siege, Minnesota’s House File No. 1369 goes even further.
The bill, introduced by six Republicans, also includes a number of other provisions that have popped up in “eco-terrorism” bills and “animal enterprise terrorism” laws over the years. Similar legislation has also been introduced in Florida and Iowa to target undercover investigators.
The Minnesota bill includes a number of dangerous parts. Among the most important:
- “Animal facility interference.” This provision targets those who, without the owner’s consent, “produce a record which reproduces an image or sound occurring at the animal facility.” Even worse, it targets those who “possess or distribute a record which produces an image or sound occurring at the animal facility.” In other words, these Republicans are not only targeting anyone who exposes abuses in these facilities, but anyone who distributes that information (presumably via DVD, or potentially YouTube videos). This is listed as a gross misdemeanor.
- “Animal facility tampering.” This provision targets those who take animals from these facilities. That, of course, is already a crime. But those provision also goes further, and includes “disrupting” the operations of such a facility. This kind of vague, overly broad language has also appeared in federal laws like the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act. People have a right to know what, exactly, is a crime; vague language like this has a chilling effect on lawful activism, and can be misused by an ambitious prosecutor. This is listed as a felony.
- “Animal facility fraud.” This provision specifically targets undercover investigators and whistleblowers. It targets those who obtain access to an animal facility by “false pretense” (such as a false name on a job application, in order to document abuses). This is listed as a gross misdemeanor.
Corporations Can Recover Damages For Any Revenue Lost
Not surprisingly, this bill includes provisions for civil recovery and equitable relief, so that corporations can force activists to compensate them for any revenue lost due to the exposure of their violence.
And the people behind it? Representative Rod Hamilton, for instance, is past president of the Minnesota Pork Producers, and a current member.
Isn’t this backwards? These people are trying to criminalize someon who is an eyewitness to a crime. Shouldn’t these people who have the extremely difficult task of documenting a crime be applauded, not hauled off to jail?
Click here to sign our petition asking the Minnesota House of Representatives not to allow this shameful bill to become law.
Photo Credit: CALM Action via Creative Commons