Society

Idaho Dairy Farmers Push Bill to Make Clandestine Recording by Activists Illegal

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Undercover reporting has often been the sole reason that abuses by government and private organizations have become public knowledge. At the onset of the 20th century, muckraker journalists such as Nellie Bly and Upton Sinclair went undercover to report their most famous stories (abuses in mental institutions and the meatpacking industry, respectively). Modern-day advocates still go undercover, but thanks to technology, they do not need skills at the keyboard to publicize the images they see. They only need cheap, tiny cameras.

News reports and documentaries like the film "Food, Inc." utilize clandestine footage recorded by activists to shine the light of public scrutiny on the deplorable conditions for animals found at some large-scale food production facilities. Yet, according to the Associated Press, “Idaho’s $2.5 billion dairy industry went on the offensive [last week] against agricultural espionage” by backing legislation that would make recording in their facilities a crime, punishable by a year in prison and a $5000 fine.

This lobbying offensive is response to a 2012 investigation by activist group Mercy for Animals and a video almost ten minutes in length recorded by one of their members who took a job at Bettencourt Dairies in Hansen, Idaho. Bob Naerebout, president of the Idaho Dairymen’s Association, claims that these activists should be criminalized for lying about their identities or backgrounds in order to get the job in the first place. “They obviously have an agenda against animal agriculture,” he told RT.com. “It’s never a legal purpose when you lie and deceive to gain access to an operation.”

Not only would this measure ban secret video, but it would also make it illegal to obtain records from dairy farms by “force or misrepresentation.” Along with the fine and prison time, the offender would be forced to pay restitution to the dairy farm “equal to twice the damage caused.” Animal activists are, of course, suggesting that this is merely a ploy to prevent further abuses from coming to light.

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