States Continue To Make Photographing Or Taping Farms A Crime

from the because-farmers dept

Over two years ago, we wrote about an absolutely insane proposal in Florida that sought to make it a felony to photograph farms without permission. The bill tried to position it as "protecting farm intellectual property," but everyone knew the real reason: farmers were upset about animal rights activists photographing and videotaping animal cruelty and revealing it to the world. We hadn't heard much more about that until just recently. A month and a half ago, On the Media had a segment about how these kinds of bills were showing up in more states, and now the NY Times has done a big article on how these "ag-gag" laws are being pushed by lobbyists heavily influenced by big farm groups.

It appears that the positioning of these bills has moved away from "protecting farmer IP" and over to claiming that animal rights activists are involved in terrorism for exposing animal cruelty. Now, we certainly believe that some animal rights groups go way overboard in their campaigns, though they often just make themselves look silly when they do so. But these laws just seem crazy, and a clear restriction on First Amendment rights.
But a dozen or so state legislatures have had a different reaction: They proposed or enacted bills that would make it illegal to covertly videotape livestock farms, or apply for a job at one without disclosing ties to animal rights groups. They have also drafted measures to require such videos to be given to the authorities almost immediately, which activists say would thwart any meaningful undercover investigation of large factory farms.
ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council), a group famous for writing legislation for members of Congress, has a "draft bill" along these lines, which argues that the effort is to prevent attempts to use images and video to "defame the facility or its owner." That's insulting. First off, we already have defamation laws. If farm owners are defamed, let them use those laws. Second, truth is an absolute defense to defamation, and if they're taking a picture that accurately represents what's going on, it's difficult to see how that could, in any way, be any form of defamation. Third, and most importantly, just because one might use some tactic to defame someone (even if it's highly unlikely) that's no excuse, at all, for seeking to ban the activity entirely.

In the end, it's legal efforts like this that make people especially cynical about the political process. It's pretty clear that there's no good reason for such laws. Rather, the entire purpose is to protect some farmers who don't want their practices exposed.


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  1. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 12th, 2013 @ 11:07am

    In the end, it's legal efforts like this that make people especially cynical about the political process. It's pretty clear that there's no good reason for such laws. Rather, the entire purpose is to protect some farmers who don't want their practices exposed.

    I'm glad you threw in the anti-government rhetoric at the end. It was kind of boring until then. Thanks for the reminder that I should distrust the political process. I almost forgot.

     

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    Ninja (profile), Apr 12th, 2013 @ 11:11am

    In the end, it's legal efforts like this that make people especially cynical about the political process.

    Cynical implies that one is not directing such distrust in a sensible, fact-based way but rather in an out_of_the_bob (clueless, delusional) way. I think it's not the case anymore. While I do believe there are politicians that want to do the right thing (not that they can actually do anything against the rigged up system) it's pretty clear that there are greater financial powers pulling the strings.

    In fact I'd say that this corrupt system has reached a stage where it self-sustains and most politicians simply can't pull out or they'll suffer consequences directly or indirectly (their families). And I do think there are those that are disgusted of what things have come to be but can't do much. I'm not sure how to call that.

    We have yet to see the bottom of this mess. The bright side is that things will take a turn for the better at some point. But before that shitloads of Americans will suffer the consequences till awareness and outrage enough are raised to form a critical mass of people who will actually protest.

     

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    BentFranklin (profile), Apr 12th, 2013 @ 11:12am

    If videotaping farms is illegal, then it should also be illegal for someone like James O'Keefe to videotape ACORN and NPR.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 12th, 2013 @ 11:17am

    Sweet, I say we arrest Andrew Wyeth's son Jamie for painting those damn farmscapes.

     

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    out_of_the_blue, Apr 12th, 2013 @ 11:22am

    Corporatized farming. Such animal abuse was rare before.

    But corporations are amoral, exist only for profit. They debase everything possible down to outright savagery, and when caught at it, go to politicians for fraudulent protection against the truth getting out. -- And what's the common element that corrupts? Money and power.

    By the way, former multi-millionaire ABC reporter Sam Donaldson used to claim on his tax returns that he was a farmer; he bought into some tax fraud scheme that was set up just for Rich freeloaders to escape their awful tax "burden" and actually got payments from the gov't for farming.

     

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    Michael, Apr 12th, 2013 @ 11:34am

    Holy cow. That is a bad law.

     

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    gorehound (profile), Apr 12th, 2013 @ 11:38am

    Government is out of Control pure and simple.
    F#ck Off Washington Politics !

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 12th, 2013 @ 11:39am

    Even worse is how a number of states, including PA with lots of Natural Gas drilling, and water contamination from the drilling, are outlawing recording environmental damage on someone elses property.

    This Includes making it illegal to film or take pictures of oil spills, which of course give oil drilling a horrible name.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 12th, 2013 @ 11:39am

    I had to read the title several times to make sure that it really says "farms". I expected to see something like "police" or "federal agents", but farms? Wow, your country is fucked up.

     

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    Hephaestus (profile), Apr 12th, 2013 @ 11:43am

    None of the laws being passed today are about helping or protecting the population. They are all about protecting the people that fund politicians careers.

     

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    ShellMG (profile), Apr 12th, 2013 @ 11:46am

    Maybe some animal-rights activists should've wasted a bit of data usage and snuck a camera into Kermit Gosnell's "clinic." That way we would have known about his house of horrors before the murders.

     

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    Gwiz (profile), Apr 12th, 2013 @ 11:52am

    Re: Corporatized farming. Such animal abuse was rare before.

    But corporations are amoral, exist only for profit. They debase everything possible down to outright savagery, and when caught at it, go to politicians for fraudulent protection against the truth getting out. -- And what's the common element that corrupts? Money and power.



    I always see you bitching that Mike never provides solutions. Ok, then. What is your solution for all of this? Are we all supposed to work for meager wages (can't have any "unearned income", can we?) as state employees (can't have corporations because they are evil!)? Do we start penalizing anyone or any corporation that earns more than you or something? Seriously, how are you going to achieve these things in reality?

    You keep spouting this rhetoric, but always seem to run away anyone asks you specifics. Come on, Blue, enlighten us with this superior intellect you seem to think you have.

     

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    Digitari, Apr 12th, 2013 @ 12:17pm

    Re:

    You do realize the lack of MSM reporting not many have any idea what the hell you are talking about right?? you need a link like this


    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-04-12/why-is-the-press-ignoring-the-kermit-gosnell-stor y-.html

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 12th, 2013 @ 12:20pm

    "protecting farm intellectual property,"

    Does this refer to:

    A) The red barns, which are clearly creative works and not at all based on older red barns which are in the public domain,

    B) The genetic code of the plants, which can be directly read if the photographs are ultra, ultra, ultra-high resolution, or

    C) The way the animals are standing, which is totally determined by the farmer and not at all by the animals themselves?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 12th, 2013 @ 12:35pm

    It's defamation because city slickers are dumb

    if they're taking a picture that accurately represents what's going on, it's difficult to see how that could, in any way, be any form of defamation.

    I remember a newspaper article several years back that talked about animal cruelty at a chicken farm. They showed some pictures of chickens that looked so ragged, without much feathers at all. At the time I felt so bad for those chickens and was ready for some justice to be paid out to those farmers. It wasn't until years later, when I raised chickens myself, that I learned that chickens moult on a regular basis. Those pictures I saw weren't signs of abuse. They were signs of my own ignorance.


    (that said I still agree that laws against photographing farms are ridiculous.)

     

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    Digitari, Apr 12th, 2013 @ 12:55pm

    Re: It's defamation because city slickers are dumb

    A question for you, was the pics in the paper before or after you had net access?if it was before you were deceived, if it was after it was cause you were a fool.
    That is what is different about today, almost everyone has the worlds repository of knowledge at their finger tips if they will make the effort to look.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 12th, 2013 @ 1:02pm

    Re:

    how the hell is that remotely related to this post??

     

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    Joe, Apr 12th, 2013 @ 1:40pm

    What's this mean for cops?

    I remember a recent article about the police doing surveillance inside open fields. Would these laws make that sort of activity illegal for the police to do without a warrant?

     

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    TheLastCzarnian (profile), Apr 12th, 2013 @ 2:03pm

    Re: Re: Corporatized farming. Such animal abuse was rare before.

    How about regular businesses, rather than corporations? And meager wages are better than no wages at all, which is what a large portion of the US is earning right now.
    Seriously, you can't imagine a world without huge corporations? Where you actually work for a living, rather than living off interest (A.K.A. Capital Gains)?

     

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    Gwiz (profile), Apr 12th, 2013 @ 2:28pm

    Re: Re: Re: Corporatized farming. Such animal abuse was rare before.

    Seriously, you can't imagine a world without huge corporations?


    Not really, to be honest. History has shown that communistic economies don't usually fare very well, because of human nature. Some of the animals end up becoming "more equal" than the rest. Capitalism uses that same human nature to it's advantage.

    It's also a problem of deciding what is "too big" and what incentives to use to stop companies from becoming "too big". What do you do, put a cap on success? Doesn't sound very productive in the long run to me.

     

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    That One Guy (profile), Apr 12th, 2013 @ 3:33pm

    Re: What's this mean for cops?

    You say that as if the police actually have to follow the laws.

     

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    John Fenderson (profile), Apr 12th, 2013 @ 3:51pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Corporatized farming. Such animal abuse was rare before.

    Corporations are inventions of and creations of the government. The government can put whatever rules they want regarding them, including size limits. In my opinion, the problem is that the government has been far, far too lenient towards them.

    Limiting corporate power is not "putting a cap on success". It's preventing the abuse that unrestrained capitalism inevitably produces -- eventually leading to the death of capitalism itself.

    The death of capitalism, by the way, is what we're seeing right now. It's being killed by the powerful corporations and being replaced by a corporatocracy.

     

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    John Fenderson (profile), Apr 12th, 2013 @ 3:53pm

    Re: It's defamation because city slickers are dumb

    When I was taking journalism classes, one of the earliest things that I learned was that the idea of the camera as "an unbiased eye" is pure bullshit. The camera can deceive just as easily as the word.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 12th, 2013 @ 5:44pm

    What would I have to do in order to have my person defined as a farm? I would than go about my business and have everyone who recorded me arrested.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 12th, 2013 @ 5:49pm

    Freakin Awesome Dude

    This is great news...a law that forbids anyone from taking a a picture of my marijuana farm...

    Does anyone know if this would include Satelite and infrared too?

     

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    Gwiz (profile), Apr 12th, 2013 @ 7:09pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Corporatized farming. Such animal abuse was rare before.

    The death of capitalism, by the way, is what we're seeing right now. It's being killed by the powerful corporations and being replaced by a corporatocracy.


    Maybe, but I'm not so sure. Feels more like the fall of the Roman Empire to me. Governments eventually collapse from the inside when they become too large, usually from corruption. The United States has already surpassed the half-life of a government. Even when governments fall, commerce continues on.

    I'm also not really sure that we are seeing any more government manipulation from corporations then we've always seen. J.P Morgan, Carnegie, Standard Oil, the Railroads, etc. The difference now is that those in power cannot completely control how we communicate anymore. We are simply more aware and informed of such things now.

     

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    Bergman (profile), Apr 12th, 2013 @ 7:33pm

    I wonder...

    Does that draft bill ALEC provides contain a law enforcement exemption?

    If not, and it's passed as written, then any criminal or regulatory investigation of an agricultural facility, even by agents of the USDA, might result in inspectors becoming felons, since photographs and video are often part of the inspection process.

    Also, depending on how agriculture is defined, it might make it illegal to take pictures of landscaping or a backyard vegetable garden.

     

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  28.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 12th, 2013 @ 7:44pm

    Re:

    It's not difficult to trust the political process when you have enough money to entrust the politicians with to ensure you are served by the process.

     

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  29.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 12th, 2013 @ 11:12pm

    Of course it's about protecting farmer intellectual property.

    It takes some pretty strong copyright to figure out how to feed male chicks into the grinder. Such business ingenuity needs to be protected!

     

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  30.  
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    Andrew Ragland, Apr 13th, 2013 @ 4:58am

    C'mon over and take pictures

    I'm a farmer. A real one, with livestock and plants and a barn and all that. Six acres and a family. Any farmer who doesn't want you taking pictures of his livestock is either a) worried that you might upset them or b) up to no good. I have alpacas. They're persnickety. You get too close or do something they don't like and they spit like a camel. I'm protecting both them and you when I ask you to step back and not use your camera's flash. But sure, c'mon over and take pictures. I've got nothing to hide. Any farmer that flatly forbids you to take pictures of his livestock is doing something he shouldn't be doing.

     

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    BentFranklin (profile), Apr 13th, 2013 @ 8:26am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Corporatized farming. Such animal abuse was rare before.

    And that is why they area attacking the internet, universities, NPR, and anything else that tries to dispel the ignorance.

     

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    mhab, Apr 13th, 2013 @ 10:04am

    Re: Re: Corporatized farming. Such animal abuse was rare before.

    Allow me to offer this as a rebuttal:
    http://tinyurl.com/bt3jet6

     

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  33.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 13th, 2013 @ 11:14am

    Re:

    That's a valid concern but it's State governments that are passing all these idiotic laws.

    Now tell me who's worse!

     

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    AzureSky (profile), Apr 13th, 2013 @ 8:51pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Corporatized farming. Such animal abuse was rare before.

    well said bf, and Gwiz, I agree with part of what you said, BUT I also see where unrestrained capitalism is the cause of alot of the worlds problems, corporatism is also known as fascism, its when the corporations own or run the govt, and this has been true for a very long time, its just gotten alot worse during my lifetime, accelerated, it sucks.

    you look at the US, and you see that our right insist we have the best medical system in the world, the rest of the developed world look at us and scoff, yes we may have some of the best clinics, but thats only if you can afford them.

    the cost of medical care has gone up up up, in no small part thanks to insurance companies...

    What I feel needs to happen is, "We The People" need to take back our nation/govt, then, use that power to reign in the corporate powers that are the root of the problem.


    a great example would be broadband providers oligarchy, most of these big companies took our money, in exchange for expanding/building infrastructure to ensure americans had broadband access, then, they pocketed it....THEN they made agreements with eachother not to compete, they also try and use legal means to stop local municipalities from providing competing services, because they dont want to loose their massive profits.

    the way i see it, they should all be hit with price fixing charges/suets and fined, use the fines to encourage other providers to build area's up.

    rather then giving out money first, make it an award for doing a good job, encourage competition encourage advancement.....

    a good example would be googles fiber...70bucks a month for 1gbit sync, when the best i can get here is 100/20 out of comcast at 115/mo, or 35/15 out of frontier.....

    honestly, we need to kick these aholes in the nuts....

    makes me sick having my friends in Japan and Korea, and hk and tw and hell even the Philippines tell me they have faster net then I have, and it costs less.... and they have tons of choices for providers compared to us......

    i could list tv options, or dozens of other day to day things where our options are limited......hell we have 1 choice of store chain locally here, safeway, if we wana drive 15min, we have more choices, BUT safeway paid off local govts to keep out competing chains even after those chains bought land and got permits....

     

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    AzureSky (profile), Apr 13th, 2013 @ 9:06pm

    Re: C'mon over and take pictures

    thats what i figure, I know a few people who work animal farms in my area, none of them work on farms where the owners or staff would care if somebody took pictures.

    now I will admit, the chicken processing plant i worked at way back would probably not like it, but, honestly despite it being nasty, anybody whos been around chickens much knows they are nasty filthy animals anyway.....

    I do not truck with abusing animals, but, im not gonna go vegan like a few nuts I know keep trying to convense me I should....

    oh and about the spitting...yeah, its kinda like a friend of mines grandparents, they raise ostrich and similar birds for meat, they had to go to a double fense a couple years back after some idiot stuck a hand threw the fence, got a chunk taken out of his arm, then sued them..(despite HUGE warning signs in 3 languages AND with images)

    people are dumb.....(stupid really)....but any farmer with a no pictures/filming policy is ashamed of their operation, and thats not a farmer i would buy from.

     

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  36.  
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    birdonawire (profile), Apr 13th, 2013 @ 10:43pm

    Re:

    There are people that want to bring to light the evil inflicted on farm animals, because that needs to be done, just like those that oppose the evil inflicted on the children at Gosnell's clinic. Do not think that these two things are in opposition to each other. It's the same evil that punches cows in the face that cuts the spines of living children. Don't be devisive in your understanding. I can say my last pro life march was this year, and I will always oppose abject abuse of animals that feed people, or any animal that simply exists in the world. I see all life as precious and hatred and abuse of all that God has created as somthing that is against God's will, yet allowed due to free choice. When I saw the pictures of those children I cried for 2 days, and it makes me sorrowful every time they come to mind, but I friend, refuse to scapegoat animals, because it is people who can and are the ones who commit evil. People like yourself that think that so called animal rights activists are doing something that is against people, excuse me, are confused, because fighting evil and sickness and darkness is always a good and right thing. One does not take away from the other. It is interesting to note that what is first done to animals, who have no voice, is the gateway of acceptance of what people do to each other, especially those children like in Gosnell's clinic. Animals deserve proper and humane respect, just like all people, because remember it is people that can be and are the improper and inhumane ones. Hope to see you at next years pro life march.

     

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  37.  
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    birdonawire (profile), Apr 13th, 2013 @ 10:51pm

    Re:

     insightful  funny  report 
    birdonawire (profile), Apr 13th, 2013 @ 10:43pm
    Re:

    There are people that want to bring to light the evil inflicted on farm animals, because that needs to be done, just like those that oppose the evil inflicted on the children at Gosnell's clinic. Do not think that these two things are in opposition to each other. It's the same evil that punches cows in the face that cuts the spines of living children. Don't be devisive in your understanding. I can say my last pro life march was this year, and I will always oppose abject abuse of animals that feed people, or any animal that simply exists in the world. I see all life as precious and hatred and abuse of all that God has created as somthing that is against God's will, yet allowed due to free choice. When I saw the pictures of those children I cried for 2 days, and it makes me sorrowful every time they come to mind, but I friend, refuse to scapegoat animals, because it is people who can and are the ones who commit evil. People like yourself that think that so called animal rights activists are doing something that is against people, excuse me, are confused, because fighting evil and sickness and darkness is always a good and right thing. One does not take away from the other. It is interesting to note that what is first done to animals, who have no voice, is the gateway of acceptance of what people do to each other, especially those children like in Gosnell's clinic. Animals deserve proper and humane respect, just like all people, because remember it is people that can be and are the improper and inhumane ones. Hope to see you at next years pro life march.
     
    [ reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38.  
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    birdonawire (profile), Apr 13th, 2013 @ 11:12pm

    Re: C'mon over and take pictures

    Thank you. I love farmers like you, and I'm grateful for you. Your type need to go after the bad guys with a unified voice because the public needs it.

     

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  39.  
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    nasch (profile), Apr 14th, 2013 @ 11:48am

    Re:

    Cynical implies that one is not directing such distrust in a sensible, fact-based way but rather in an out_of_the_bob (clueless, delusional) way.

    I think it means "Believing that people are motivated by self-interest; distrustful of human sincerity or integrity." I don't think there's any implication of delusion.

     

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  40.  
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    Joe, Apr 14th, 2013 @ 11:47pm

    federal anti-ag gag petition

    #AgGagBad - Ag Gag laws unfairly criminalize the info instead of the abuses - Please sign the federal petition and spread the word - http://wh.gov/M6yq

     

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  41.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 14th, 2013 @ 11:50pm

    Re: Re: Re: Corporatized farming. Such animal abuse was rare before.

    For future reference, I won't follow a shortened URL link in an animal abuse discussion. It smells like PETA troll.

     

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  42.  
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    Niall (profile), Apr 15th, 2013 @ 6:52am

    Re:

    Constable! Arrest Constable!

     

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  43.  
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    Niall (profile), Apr 15th, 2013 @ 6:56am

    Re:

    D) The field layout and how they are planted, which is totally not visible from the air or from a space satellite.

     

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    John Fenderson (profile), Apr 15th, 2013 @ 9:03am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Corporatized farming. Such animal abuse was rare before.

    We are simply more aware and informed of such things now.


    This is an excellent argument. I'm going to have to think a lot more about this issue.

     

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  45.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 15th, 2013 @ 7:21pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Corporatized farming. Such animal abuse was rare before.

    When Ben & Jerry owned their famous ice cream company, they had a rule that no exec's salary, including theirs, could be higher than 50 X their lowest-paid worker. I remember reading (years ago) that Michael Eisner got a bonus in the hundreds of millions of dollars on top of his hundreds of millions of dollars of salary when he was CEO of Disney... meanwhile, the Disney Company was busy actively denying their lowest-level workers a living wage or benefits.

    There's making a profit (capitalism.) And then there's being a profiteer (corporatism.) We used to have laws against profiteers (thank you, Teddy Roosevelt), but those laws have demonstrably been eroded over time, by both democratic and republican regimes, at the behest of the people with the money. Once again we have Golden Age-like virtual monopolies in every walk of life that are destroying any high ideals our country ever aspired to.

     

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    stimoceiver (profile), Apr 16th, 2013 @ 1:00pm

    Interesting. I just read this article over at truth-out:

    http://truth-out.org/news/item/15721-pennsylvania-court-deals-blow-to-secrecy-obsessed -fracking-industry

    Hopefully this ruling will be seen to apply to "photography" and journalistic investigation of factory farms as well.

     

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    nathaniel, Apr 18th, 2013 @ 6:48pm

    How can filming ANYTHING be illegal? laws are becomming such random bullshit these days! all the stupid shit, can we make a law that says is someone passes a law that violates the majority of peoples opinions they can be instantly shot to death? thats the kind of law we need, cocksucking bastards.

     

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