A bill to protect livestock producers from undercover videos is getting plenty of attention. The bill (SB373) which would prevent the unauthorized videotaping of farming and manufacturing operations easily passed the Indiana Senate. Now the House takes up consideration, and animal activists are calling on Hollywood for help. Josh Trenary, with Indiana Pork, says the legislation is designed to protect Indiana livestock operations from being targets of defamation, “What we are hoping to do with this bill is to distinguish that dividing line between proper concern over animal wellbeing and defamation and harassment of Indiana pork producers in general.”
These so-called undercover videos are typically highly edited and present a distorted view of animal production and give the appearance of abuse when often animal abuse does not actually occur. Trenary told HAT activists have used this tactic regularly as a fundraising tool, “We don’t want our producers to be used as a fundraising mechanism for activist groups that don’t have our best interest at heart.” The fact that these groups oppose this bill is proof they are not really interested in animal welfare, said Trenary.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle, and Rep. Bill Friend, R-Macy, as written and amended, would still allow for reporting of animal abuse, but the video could only be presented to law enforcement authorities not put on the internet. The report of abuse would also need to be made within 48 hours. “Which, if you were really concerned about the welfare of animals, you would want to do,” stated Trenary. While opponents have labeled the legislation the “ag gag” bill, adoption of the legislation would not prevent the reporting of animal abuse or allow the covering up of abuse.
This week, several high profile celebrities wrote letters to the speaker of the Indiana House calling on him to kill the legislation. Tony Kanal, of the rock band No Doubt, and retired Price is Right host Bob Barker have both written letters to House Speaker Brian Bosma about Senate Bill 373.
Bob Kraft, with Indiana Farm Bureau, told HAT this was a publicity stunt that is not likely to have an impact on support for the legislation, “What a rock band drummer and a retired game show host, both of whom live in California, have to say about Indiana legislation is not relevant.” “I watched Bob Barker doing the Price is Right for many years, and I never told him how to operate,” said farmer and state Rep. Bill Friend. “So I would suggest he let me operate my business in the proper fashion, as a professional and as an individual who cares for his animals.”
Farm Bureau President Don Villwock and the leaders of other business and agricultural organizations in Indiana have written to the Speaker urging him to assign the bill to a committee so that members of the House can consider it on its merits. In his letter, Villwock points out that the bill specifically provides that anyone who suspects an animal is being mistreated may document it with a recording but must deliver that evidence to appropriate law enforcement authorities within 48 hours. This timeframe allows necessary corrective action to be taken in a timely manner. Villwock maintains this provision “should be welcomed by anyone who is genuinely concerned about stopping animal cruelty.” The bill has not yet been assigned to a House committee, but Kraft expects that action will be taken on the legislation in the next few weeks.