What country do we live in?
I hate the animal-rights movement. I don’t believe that commercial animal-using industries should be regulated on humanitarian grounds. (I’m more open to them on recreational businesses; I think criminalizing dog-fighting makes sense.) I fully support any farm or food factory bringing charges against trespassers or saboteurs to the full extent of the law.
But the government has no business outlawing video footage of business operations.
From ABC News: “Turn Off That Camera! Idaho Gov Signs Tough ‘Ag-Gag’ Into Law.”
Idaho Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter has signed the latest so-called “Ag Gag” bill, making the state the seventh in the nation to criminalize hidden camera recording inside farm facilities – a tactic used by animal rights groups to expose alleged animal abuse and cruelty.
“We’re tickled,” Senator Jim Patrick, one of the bills’ sponsors, told ABC News Friday afternoon, calling the law “enforceable and constitutional.” “It’s a relief to have it done and settled,” he said.
The law will put anyone convicted of recording hidden camera video inside an agriculture operation in jail for a year. There is also a $5000 fine.
How does that work? Either the food factories are claiming that no animal abuse or cruelty goes on in their facilities or they are not. If they claim no cruelty or abuse, then obviously, under the First Amendment, journalists have a right to verify this claim and show the public what they have found. As George Orwell said, “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.” Likewise, if liberty means anything at all it means the right to show people what they do not want to see.
This is a straightforward attack on the First Amendment.
In debating the bill, legislators cited undercover footage taken at Bettencourt Dairies that aired last year on ABC News “Nightline” – showing horrific abuse of cows. An activist working for the group Mercy for Animals recorded brutal abuse of cows in 2012, including the beating and shocking of the animals. The video was turned over to local law enforcement and criminal charges were brought against three employees at the facility. One pleaded guilty to misdemeanor animal cruelty.
Does this mean the legislators want lawbreakers to be able to get away with it? If they don’t mind animal “cruelty” then annul that law or make exceptions for farms. Don’t attack the First Amendment.
Patrick said when things turned “personal” against owner Luis Bettencourt, including death threats against him and his family, it created fear in all Idaho farmers, which ultimately led to the controversial bill.
That’s horrible and I hope the police track down the ones making threats. But I still want my First Amendment left intact. Do the Republicans in Idaho favor voiding the Second Amendment because of real deaths like school shootings? No? Then how can mere threats be permitted to overthrow the First Amendment?
I hope the courts beat down these laws and others like them. But the fact that they are even considered in Republican-dominated states makes me sick.
Getting more Republicans elected in 2014 and 2016 is not necessarily going to do anything about this problem. We need to get people in office who reject unconstitutional authoritarianism.