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In 2003, in response to a growing number of whistle-blower reports and videos surfacing about the treatment of animals, sanitation conditions and overall practices of industrial livestock farming, ALEC created a “model bill” called the Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act that would seek to criminalize the production of these videos.  The bills that would soon proliferate into State Houses around the country became known as “Ag-Gag Bills” since their clear intent was to silence any reporter that tried to communicate what they found to the public.

The tactics used in this effort are a simple two-pronged approach:

   1.     Criminalize the act of falsely seeking employment at a facility for the sole purpose of documenting abuse or conditions.  This was to target serial activists affiliated with groups like PETA and the Humane Society as well as the burgeoning food advocates that began to train their sites on livestock production.
   2.    Mandate via statute a set requirement of how quickly any evidence must be reported to the authorities.  This is to stop the investigators from accumulating footage, editing it holistically and/or releasing it to a media outfit or to the public directly.  This is done under the guise of a “If what these well-intentioned whistle-blowers observe is so criminally offensive, they should be reporting it to law enforcement immediately, not seeking to make their own expose film for YouTube” argument.

This was ALEC recommendation on how to address this problem for the food industry.  Don’t try to water down abuse laws. Don’t let the government actually regulate the practice of raising, feeding and killing animals.  And DON’T get into a litigation fight with these activists that seek to use the judicial process as their megaphone.

Just SILENCE them.  Legally.  …and it worked.

Kansas already had its Farm Animal and Field Crop and Research Facilities Protection Act on the books from 1990.  Montana and North Dakota had laws from 1991.  But in 2012 we saw Iowa, Missouri and Utah all pass an ALEC version of this law.  

Amy Myer was the first US citizen arrested on Ag-Gag charges in Utah for filming a slaughterhouse from a public street.  Charges were later dropped.

Later this year, National Geographic reporter George Steinmetz was arrested for taking aerial pictures of a feedlot in Kansas.

In 2013 we saw ELEVEN new states formally introduce ALEC-modeled Ag-Gag laws in their legislatures.  The fight was on and I am proud to report that the Anti-Ag-Gag, anti-ALEC, pro-1st Amendment, Pro-Food Safety forces went UNDEFEATED and stopped every single one of these.  The only close call was Tennessee where the legislature passed the bill and we needed Republican Governor Bill Haslam to veto it on concerns that it was an unconstitutional infringement on Tennessean’s First Amendment rights.

Details of the bills we have stopped below the Vermillion Escutcheon.  Notice just how little the bills vary state-by-state, down to the very words they use.

Read Up. Rejoice.  …and be ready to fight with us in 2014.

Arkansas - SB14: Interfering with Livestock or Poultry Operations (PDF File) – Sponsored by Sen G. Stubblefield - DEFEATED

A person commits interference with a livestock or poultry operation if the person:
(1) Knowingly records an image of or sound from the livestock or poultry operation by leaving a recording device on the private property where the livestock or poultry operation is conducted, with the purpose to cause harm to the livestock or poultry operation;

(2) Knowingly obtains access to a livestock or poultry operation 19 under false pretenses;

(3) Applies for employment at a livestock or poultry operation with the purpose to record an image of or sound from the livestock or poultry operation, knowing at the time that the person accepts employment at the livestock or poultry operation that the owner of the livestock or poultry operation prohibits the employee from recording an image of or sound from the livestock or poultry operation, and while employed at and while present on the private property where the livestock or poultry operation is conducted, records an image of or sound from the livestock or poultry operation;

(4) Knowingly records an image of or sound from a livestock or poultry operation while the person is committing criminal trespass, § 5-39-203, on the private property where the livestock or poultry operation is conducted; or

(5) Knowingly makes a false statement or representation that the person knows to be false as part of an application or agreement to be employed at a livestock or poultry operation and makes the false statement or representation with the purpose to commit an act on the private property that As Engrossed: S2/26/13 SB14 3 01-09-2013 16:30:23 BPG042
the person knows is not authorized by the owner of the livestock or poultry operation, knowing that the act is not authorized.

California -AB 343: Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act – Introduced by Assembly Member Jim Patterson, coauthored by Members Katcho Achadjian, Frank Bigelow, Rocky Chavez, Brian Dahle, Dan Logue, Brian Maienschein and Senator Jim Nielsen - DEFEATED
Any person, except a person described in Section 1070 of the Evidence Code, who willfully or knowingly documents evidence of animal cruelty, in the form of film, image, photographs, print, recordings, or videotapes shall provide a copy of the applicable form of documentary evidence obtained by the person to local law enforcement or an associated animal control officer within 120 hours of documentation to assist law enforcement with the timely investigation and appropriate enforcement of suspected cases of animal cruelty.
Indiana - SB 373 - DEFEATED
A person who knowingly or intentionally:
        (1) enters real property:
            (A) that is owned by another person; and
            (B) on which agricultural operations or industrial operations are being conducted; and
        (2) takes a digital or analog photograph of or makes a digital or analog video recording or motion picture of:
            (A) the real property;
            (B) structures located on the real property; or
            (C) the agricultural operations or industrial operations being conducted on the real property;
without the written consent of the owner of the real property or an authorized representative of the owner commits unlawful recording of agricultural or industrial operations, a Class A misdemeanor.
A separate bill (SB 391) was introduced to maintain a registry of all offenders of SB 373.
Nebraska -LB 204 (PDF File) – Introduced by Senator Tyson Larson - DEFEATED
(1) Any person who makes a false statement or
 representation as part of an application or agreement to be employed
at an animal facility with the intent of damaging or interfering with
the operations of an animal facility and in connection with such
purpose
(a) intentionally causes economic damage to property used by
an animal facility or any property of a person or entity having a
connection to, a relationship with, or transactions with an animal
facility,

(b) intentionally places a person in reasonable fear of the death of or serious bodily injury to that person, a member of the immediate family of that person, or a spouse or intimate partner of
that person, by a course of conduct involving economic damage, or

(c) conspires or attempts to perform such actions as described in
LB 204 LB 204

New Hampshire - HB 110 – Sponsored by Representatives Robert Haefner, Stephen Shurtleff, Bob Odell, Tara Sad and Sharon Carson - DEFEATED
1 New Paragraph; Recordings of Cruelty to Livestock. Amend RSA 644:8 by inserting after paragraph V the following new paragraph:

VI. Any person who records any activity that falls under paragraph III as committed against livestock shall have a duty to report such activities to law enforcement authorities and shall submit any unedited photographs or video recordings to the law enforcement authorities within 24 hours of the recording’s creation.

New Mexico - SB 552: Livestock Operations Interference Act (PDF File)  – Introduced by Representative Cliff Pirtle -  DEFEATED
LIVESTOCK OPERATION INTERFERENCE.--A person is
guilty of livestock operation interference if the person:
A. without consent from the owner of a livestock
operation, or the owner's agent, knowingly or intentionally
records an image of, or sound from, the livestock operation by
leaving a recording device on the livestock operation;

B. obtains access to a livestock operation under
false pretenses;

C. applies for employment at a livestock operation
with the intent to record an image of, or sound from, the
livestock operation;

D. knows, at the time that the person accepts
employment at a livestock operation, that the owner of the
livestock operation prohibits the employee from recording an
image of, or sound from, the livestock operation and while
present on the livestock operation records an image of, or
sound from, the livestock operation; or

E. without consent of the owner of a livestock
operation or the owner's agent, knowingly or intentionally
records an image of, or sound from, a livestock operation while
the person is committing criminal trespass, as described in
Section 30-14-1 NMSA 1978, on the livestock operation.

North Carolina - SB 648: NC Commerce Protection Act (PDF File) – Sponsored by Senators Brent Jackson, Wesley Meredith, Jim Davis and Jerry Tillman - DEFEATED
It is unlawful for any person to willfully make false statements or representations or to fail to disclose requested information as part of an employment application that the person knows to be false or incomplete for the purpose of gaining access to the employer's facilities to do any of the following:

(1) To create or produce a record that reproduces an image or sound occurring within the employer's facility, including a photographic, video, or audio medium record.

(2) To capture or remove data, paper, records, or any other documents through duplication, downloading, image capture, electronic mail, electronic transfer, or other means.

Pennsylvania - HB 683 – Sponsored by Representatives Gary Haluska, Carl Metzger, Stephan Barrar, Dick Hess, Dan Moul, Mike Fleck and Adam Harris - DEFEATED
(a) Offense defined.--A person commits the offense of
interfering with agricultural operations if the person:

(1) Without consent from the owner of an agricultural
operation or the owner's agent:
(i) records an image of, or sound from, the agricultural operation by leaving a recording device onthe agricultural operation; or
(ii) uploads, downloads, transfers or otherwise
sends recorded images of, or sound from, the agricultural
operations over the Internet in any medium.

 (2) Obtains access to an agricultural operation under
false pretenses.

(3) Enters an agricultural operation with the intent t o
obtain unlawful possession of, or access to, any information,
data or article representing any agricultural activity or
farming which is conducted or takes place at the agricultural
operation.

(4) (i) Applies for employment at an agricultural
operation with the intent to record an image of, or sound
from, the agricultural operation;
(ii) knows, at the time that the person accepts
employment, that the owner of the agricultural operation
prohibits the recording of any image of, or sound from,
the agricultural operation; and
(iii) while employed at, and while present on, the
agricultural operation, records an image of, or sound
from, the agricultural operation.

(5) Without consent from the owner of the agricultural
operation or the owner's agent, records an image of, or sound
from, an agricultural operation while the person is
committing criminal trespass, as provided for in section 3503
(relating to criminal trespass).

Tennessee - HB1191/SB1248: Amendments to State Animal Cruelty Laws – Sponsored by Rep. Andy Holt and Sen Dolores Gresham- DEFEATED by Governor Veto
AMENDMENT #1 rewrites this bill to require a person who intentionally records by photograph, digital image, video or similar medium for the purpose of documenting the offense of cruelty to animals committed against livestock, within 48 hours, or by the close of business the next business day, whichever is later, to:

(1) Report such violation to a law enforcement agency with jurisdiction over the alleged offense; and
(2) Submit any unedited photographs, digital images or video recordings to law enforcement authorities.

Wyoming - HB 126 (PDF File) – Sponsored by Representative Sue Wallis and Senator Ogden Driskill - DEFEATED
A person, other than a law enforcement officer
 acting within the scope of his duties, is guilty of0 interference with an agricultural operation if the person:

 (i) Without consent from the owner or manager of
 the agricultural operation, knowingly or intentionally
 records an image of or sound from the agricultural
 operation by concealing or placing a recording device on
 the premises of the agricultural operation;

 (ii) Without consent from the owner or manager
 of the agricultural operation, knowingly or intentionally
 records an image of or sound from the agricultural
 operation while committing criminal trespass under W.S.
 6-3-303;

Vermont - S 162 – Sponsored by Senators Robert Starr, Norm McAllister, John Rodgers and Richard Westman - DEFEATED
A person commits the offense of agricultural facility fraud if the person,
with the intent to commit an act that the person knows is not authorized by the facility’s owner:
   (1) knowingly obtains access to an agricultural 1 facility by false pretenses; or
   (2) makes a knowingly false statement or representation as part of an application to be employed at an agricultural facility.

Originally posted to Wisper on Tue Nov 19, 2013 at 07:53 AM PST.

Also republished by American Legislative Transparency Project.

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Comment Preferences

  •  To follow up on this (7+ / 0-)

    1.  South Carolina did pass a bill, while not specifically referencing video or photographs has anti-interference language in it that some argue makes it a de facto ag-gag law.

    2.  After Amy Myer's arrest, she is leading a group of plaintiffs that have filed suit seeking to overturn Utah's law on Constitutional grounds.

    Красота спасет мир --F. Dostoevsky

    by Wisper on Tue Nov 19, 2013 at 08:01:43 AM PST

  •  The good guys actually winning a few? (6+ / 0-)

    Very heartening.

    Hige sceal þe heardra, heorte þe cenre, mod sceal þe mare, þe ure mægen lytlað

    by milkbone on Tue Nov 19, 2013 at 08:17:42 AM PST

    •  Yes, this is very encouraging indeed. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RiveroftheWest

      Thanks to all those who fought this good fight.

      --------------------- “These are troubling times. Corporation are treated like people. People are treated like things. …And if we ever needed to vote, we sure do need to vote now.” -- Rev. Dr. William J. Barber

      by Fiona West on Tue Nov 19, 2013 at 03:42:58 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  My question is this: (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RiveroftheWest

    In the absence of laws like this, is it presently legal to surreptitiously record or place concealed recording devices in one's workplace?  I imagine it varies from state to state, but I would have thought it was already illegal.  

    Perhaps one approach would be to propose amendments making the laws' provisions apply to every workplace, not just agricultural ones.  Seems fair, doesn't it?  And with that, maybe we'd hear the last of James O'Keefe.

    •  Recording laws (5+ / 0-)

      are typically constrained to two things:  

      1. Recording other people without their consent.  This applies to any situation not just places of employment.

      2. Recording anything that could be a legitimate "corporate secret" like how a company formulates a product to differentiate themselves from their competitor.

      In both areas the reason for the restrictions of legality are clear.  People should be able to object if they don't want to be recorded by you and you cant steal company secrets with impunity.

      Also, there are also already plenty of defamation laws on the books that would allow companies to take action if they were wrongly smeared.  If I go out and start broadcasting how you are cruelly abusing cows if you have proof that you are 100% in USDA/FDA compliance. In such an instance you can (and should) sue the shit out of me.

      However, Ag-Gag seeks to have a general blanket prohibition on ANY documentation of ANYTHING that relates to agriculture or livestock.  It doesn't matter what you do with it.  It doesn't matter what the activity is or whether it is related to recording other people or just pictures of animals, facilities, sanitation equipment or anything.  They seek to make it a crime immediately for taking pictures or recordings of anything without permission.

      And the employment restrictions are obviously left vague enough to engender claims that someone only got their job at an food facility in order to gain access to what they wanted to document.

      The idea of "if it relates to food, it should be kept secret" is something that is clearly hitting a stumbling block with the American people.   ....and rightly so.

      Красота спасет мир --F. Dostoevsky

      by Wisper on Tue Nov 19, 2013 at 09:01:39 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Civil damages are one thing (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      elmo, RiveroftheWest

      Making it criminal is the problem.

      Government and laws are the agreement we all make to secure everyone's freedom.

      by Simplify on Tue Nov 19, 2013 at 09:29:58 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Nice update on the subject! (3+ / 0-)

    Nicely done - brings attention to the copy paste nature of what ALEC legislators do.

    Of note - ALEC first intro'd the Ag-Gag laws in 2003 and they did pass in some form in multiple states.

    All done for the agri-businesses that belong to ALEC.
    No citizen constituent ever asked for this type of legislation.

    Thanks for the hard work and research.

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