Last week Utah joined Iowa in becoming the second state to pass legislation that will criminalize undercover investigations of agricultural operations.
Passed with unanimous support, HB 187 was signed into law by Governor Gary Herbert and will make it illegal to take, possess or distribute photos, video or audio recordings or to gain access to a facility under false pretenses and may result in penalties of up to a year behind bars or a $1,000 fine.
“By enacting a law that criminalizes undercover investigations revealing cruelty to animals, corporate corruption, unsafe working conditions, environmental violations, or food safety issues at factory farms, Governor Herbert has helped turn factory farms in the state into safe havens for criminal and unethical conduct,” said Nathan Runkle, executive director of Mercy for Animals.
Farm animals are already left with no federal protection and suffer through routine agricultural practices from tail docking, castration without painkillers and debeaking to being confined to in spaces so small they can’t even turn around, in addition to being left vulnerable to abuse and neglect. Undercover investigations are an indispensable tool that have lead to changes in animal welfare policies, and in some cases arrests and convictions of those who were found guilty of abuse. The fact that agribusinesses are pushing so hard, and funding efforts, to hide what’s going on behind closed doors can only leave everyone to draw the conclusion that they do, in fact, have something to hide and don’t actually want consumers making informed choices.
Last year ag gag bills failed in each of the four states they were introduced in thanks to public outrage. This year, seven states have introduced this type of legislation and bills are currently pending in Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New York and Tennessee.
If you live in any of these states, please contact your legislators and ask them to support animal welfare, consumer safety and transparency in agriculture by not allowing this type of legislation to pass in any form.
Photo credit: Stephen & Claire Farnsworth