With SB373 which would protect farmers from unauthorized videotaping on their farms moving to the full Indiana House for a vote, the media drumbeat against the legislation continues. Indiana media outlets and radical activist groups are working hard to drum up opposition to the legislation. This week an IU law profession got widespread coverage when he suggested the bill would be unconstitutional. Seth Lahn said he believes the bill violates the First Amendment, “Whether you come at it from a position of food safety or working conditions or animal cruelty – it gets into a number of areas that, I think, the courts have always recognized – and common sense tells you, is an issue the public has an interest in hearing about.” National celebrities with no connection to Indiana also continue to pressure lawmakers to vote against the bill. National GOP strategist Mary Matalin, in an unlikely pairing with the animal-rights group PETA, released a video message directed at Hoosier lawmakers. She said that this time she agrees with her husband, Democratic party strategist James Carville.
Very few of the stories published ever talk to Indiana agriculture sources to get the other side of the story. Josh Tranery with Indiana Pork told the House Ag Committee this bill is about protecting all farmers from exploitation, “Video footage is used to create the false impression that all pork farmers are doing something wrong. When something illegal occurs on a farm all pork farmers should not be punished for the actions of a few. We need to focus on punishing only those responsible.” That is what SB373 does. The bill, amended in committee by House sponsor Representative Bill Friend, makes it a Class A misdemeanor to photograph at a farm or business without written permission from the owner.
Joe Miller with Rose Acre Farms has had firsthand experience with undercover videos. He related to the House Ag Committee how activists used these videos in Iowa, “We had an employee who falsely gained employment on our farm and worked for us for about 3 weeks. He had a hidden camera and took hours of video images. He then quit and went to another farm in the area and did the same thing.” Miller said 3 months later the edited video was published on the internet and picked up by media sources. “The video intermingled the farms so much we had trouble telling what was taken on our own farm,” Miller testified. He added that the video made claims that were totally false and, in the end, the only claim of animal abuse was that chickens were kept in cages, a standard and approved practice in the industry. This video cast aspersion on all egg farms and resulted in a decline of egg consumption. Miller said, after the release of the misleading video, Rose Acres invited the media to come to the farm to see for themselves. Only one TV station bothered to show up.
Indiana Farm Bureau is asking farmers to contact their lawmakers to voice support for SB373.