A Kentucky Senate committee unanimously approved a measure Tuesday that would make it illegal for anyone to film farm operations without the consent of the owner.
The Senate Agriculture Committee bill makes it a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a fine of $250, for secretly filming on privately-owned farms.
The Humane Society of the United States argues that the law keeps consumers in the dark about farm practices and what’s in their food.
"Instead of trying to clean up the bad behavior, they try to criminalize the messenger," said Matt Dominguez, spokesman for the Humane Society of the United States. "They want to criminalize anyone who tries to speak against the horrors on factory farms as well as horse barns."
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Jeff Harper, director of public affairs for the Kentucky Farm Bureau, contends that the legislation is necessary to protect farmers' rights.
Senate Agriculture Chairman Paul Hornback, R-Shelbyville, said secret videotaping on farms "has been a problem all over the country."
Idaho State Sen. Jim Patrick said activists who covertly film animal abuses and food safety concerns on farms are like “marauding invaders centuries ago who swarmed into foreign territory and destroyed crops to starve foes into submission.”
Idaho was the seventh state to pass such an “ag-gag” bill in February. The law was backed by Idaho’s $2.5 billion dairy industry, according to Motherboard.
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Dominguez says the Kentucky bill was spurred on by an investigation that took place at an Owensboro hog farm in February.
The Humane Society released footage taken at Iron Maiden hog farm, where workers fed ground-up piglet intestines to sows, in possible violation of food safety regulations.
The Senate committee attached the ag-gag legislation to Bill 222, sponsored by Rep. Joni Jenkins, D-Louisville, who wants to set euthanasia standards for animal shelters.
Jenkins was appalled by the changes to her bill and says she won’t call it for a vote in the House if the Senate approves it.