Earlier this year a bill was introduced in Florida by Senator Jim Norman that would have made it a felony to take photos or video of a farm or agriculture operation.
The “Ag Gag” bill was openly supported by Big Ag and directed at both whistle-blowers who go undercover to document the cruelty that animals on farms suffer, as well as anyone who wants to just snap a shot while standing on the side of the road. Those documenting what they saw would have been left facing criminal charges, while abusers would be left unaccountable. Fortunately, the bill never came to a vote and similar measures failed in Minnesota, Iowa and New York.
Sen. Norman has reintroduced this legislation by sneaking similar language into a larger agricultural bill (SB 1184), which will make it a first-degree misdemeanor to take photos, audio recordings or video of a farm or farm operation without previous written consent.
All of this was done with urging from Wilton Simpson of Simpson Farms, which “produces 21 million eggs annually for Florida’s second-largest egg seller, Tampa Farm Service,” according to the Florida Independent. Simpson reportedly fears activists will gather dirt on factory farms for campaigns that could lead to a ballot initiative similar to California’s Prop 2. Simpson’s also currently running for senate.
Undercover videos from organizations such as Mercy for Animals and the HSUS have played an important role in exposing not only egregious abuse and unsanitary living conditions that farm animals are forced to endure, but have also drawn attention to standard industry practices that don’t seem to fit into the mainstream idea of humane treatment of animals and in some cases have resulted in criminal charges and new laws.
The materials provided by such investigations have opened the doors to otherwise closed facilities and prompt thought, debate and reform regarding the treatment and use of animals in agriculture would have been swept under the rug.
Please sign the petition asking Florida’s senators not to pass this bill in any form.
Photo credit: Aquafornia via flickr