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Photograph a Farm in Florida: Go to Jail.

Photograph a Farm in Florida: Go to Jail.

A photograph like the one above, even if taken from a public road, could land you in jail if one Florida lawmaker get his way. Florida’s Senator Norman introduced a bill in the state legislature this spring to make it a felony to shoot photos or video of “a farm or other property where legitimate agriculture operations are being conducted without the written consent of the owner.”

Take action: Sign the Care2 petition to protect photographers exposing animal abuses on factory farms.

Senator Norman has dismissed the outcry of photographers that such a law violates Constitutional rights to free expression and admits that his target isn’t tourists capturing iconic images of farms and sunsets but animal rights activists from PETA or other groups using photography to expose inhumane and unsanitary practices at factory farms.

The cliche “a picture is worth a thousand words” wouldn’t exist if images weren’t powerful.  Social movements throughout the 20th century have used images to catalyze support for their campaigns. I bet you can think of three right now (images from Vietnam, the Tiananmen Square massacre, and the U.S. Civil Rights movement come immediately to my mind). 

Judy Dalglish, executive director for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, told a Florida Tribune reporter that the bill “is just flat-out unconstitutional not to mention stupid,” she said. According to Daglish, photography from a public road or even an airplane over private property is legal and that “there are laws already to prosecute trespassing onto property without permission. And if someone poses as a farm employee to shoot undercover video, they can be fired and possibly sued,” reports the Tribune.

But About.com’s photography editor reflects the concerns of many in the profession that if this bill should become law “photographers could still be arrested and charged until such a time as someone made a successful challenge in federal court.”

When I worked for Food & Water Watch, one of my tasks was to find images for their written materials and finding pictures of the outrageous treatment of animals on factory farms is tough. We usually had to settle for less compelling (but legally acquired) images shot from the side of the road like the one above.

The activists willing to trespass to capture truly dramatic photographs of the suffering of hogs, cows and chickens know the risks. Senator Nelson’s bill is targeted at them, raising the stakes for activism and possibly protecting factory farms from public ire by keeping their inhumane practices under cover.

Take action: Sign the Care2 petition to protect photographers exposing animal abuses on factory farms.

Correction: I initially typed Nelson when I meant Norman. Senator Bill Nelson is a U.S. Senator from Florida.  Senator Jim Norman is a state senator from Florida’s 12th district.

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Cattle feedlot photo by flickr user friendsoffamilyfarmers / used by Creative Commons license.

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203 comments

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3:01PM PDT on Apr 18, 2013

Shame on FL & any state that protects animal abusers & not the whistle blowers! Boycott meat.

8:57AM PDT on Apr 1, 2013

Thank you for sharing.

5:53AM PST on Feb 15, 2013

The various legislations are of course being proposed to ensure that the public does not know what cruelty is being perpetrated on animals by business AND sanctioned by governments.

I firmly believe that stopping the passing of such legislation and repealing such legislations that are already in place should be the NUMBER ONE priority of our various animal lobby groups.

Without the heroes that go undercover (and the evidence they gather) we have no proof to convince the public of the atrocity that fur farming, factory farming, slaughterhouses, animal testing laboritories, puppy/kitten mills, etc etc really are.

Those of you who agree with me - we must start lobbying our animal lobby groups to take this on as number one priority.

8:31AM PDT on Aug 29, 2012

Americans as well as all humans should have the right to video or photo anything. The big factory farms pay big bucks to politicians & get laws passed that favor them. That sucks!

10:41AM PST on Dec 21, 2011

When Mercy For Animals paid a videographer and a mentally impaired guy to abuse cows on a milk farm, publish the video, and cry abuse, then it is clear that individuals going onto farms and taking photos or videos should not be allowed without permission. Folks, the animal rights radicals who want to END ANIMAL FARMING are trying their best to make it look like all farmers and ranchers are cruel to their animals. This is simply wrong. How would we all like it if videographers visited every family secretly and photographed their family activities so that some official could step in and remove children based on their INTERPRETATION of the video??? You can take photos and videos and edit them to appear like abuse...especially when the majority of the public has NO experience with animals or farming or cattle ranching or anything related to food production! While some people think that "if you have nothing to hide, why not allow photographs"...they do not understand that all it takes is good editing and the right words and a normal activity that is not abusive will be made to appear so. That is the problem.

5:28AM PST on Dec 21, 2011

Trying to stop the truth from coming out is self incriminating in and of itself. Any upstanding, ethical business of any kind should be proud of what goes on within their company-period. Rather than reflect the vast majority's ethical and moralistic standards, the animal agriculture industry has chosen greed and cruelty. This is why people have turned against them.

2:28PM PDT on Oct 30, 2011

Kentucky passed a law recently that does not allow the Humane Society or groups like PETA to intervene in abusive practices with farm animals. They say these are long standing animal husbandry that has been practiced for years. Farmers would have the interests of their animals first and profits second. (HaHa). At the Kentucky state fair, I saw a Future Farmer of America with a rooster in his hands. I asked him what he was going to do with this rooster. He said he was going to use it for fighting. He started pushing at the the roosters head and said, "see how mean he is?". The rooster started trying to peck at him after the taunting.

If future farmers of america are buying roosters for cock fighting, what makes anyone think they would have compassion towards any animals? Cock fighting is done in secret in kentucky with police officers participating in the games. It's been caught on tape.

The only way to expose this greed and abuse is to infiltrate the business and report or film the cruelties.

2:11PM PDT on Oct 30, 2011

The laws that big agribusiness are pushing to prevent exposure of their evil greed at the expense and suffering of animals is a crime against nature, thus a crime against God. It boils down to capitalism. In all industries, PROFIT is the ONLY thing that matters. People formed unions to protect themselves from safety issues and unfair pay practices. Animals are the laborers that give their lives in the end by a horrific slaughter. They will never be able to form an organization for fair practices. We need to step up.

Capitalism brings back the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. The farm animals are the proletariat and big agribusiness is the bourgeoisie. But it is more than conflict going on between these classes. Animals have to ability to protect themselves or communicate the
horrors of their lives.

Not only is this a cruel industry, it's damaging to our environment. Most grains and soybeans are grown for animal feed using up land that could be used to feed the hungry humans.
Poor sanitation and medical care for these animals or poor sanitation in the slaughterhouses have caused human illnesses and death for some, millions of pounds of meat were destroyed due to this neglect and greed.

These abusive agribusiness
practices need to be stopped for the health of this country, our environment and a redirection of our moral compass (compassion). These laws should be unconstitutional and if they are passed should be taken all the way to the supreme court.

1:22PM PDT on Oct 30, 2011

There are no laws to protect farm animals from this kind of treatment. We need to start there. Farm animals only have laws to protect them from inhumane slaughter. These laws are not enforceable and ignored when ritual slaughter for Muslims and Jews. There are plenty of instances of this transgression against nature to prove this crime.

Poultry have NO laws at all to protect them. Chickens, turkey or any kind of bird have no protection at all. They can be abused in any manner during their life, during transportation to slaughter and at slaughter without any humane laws to lighten their suffering. If you visited an egg farm or chicken slaughter house, you would be sickened. We know what happens to turkeys from the video of S. Palin's interview after she pardoned a turkey at Thanksgiving time one year.

Farm animals suffer, experience joy, are curious and intelligent. It is a crime how are animals are treated in this country. You can judge the moral compass of a country by the way they treat their animals.

10:31PM PDT on May 24, 2011

horrible

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