New legislation proposed in Minnesota attempts to crack down on activists who have exposed repeated animal welfare violations. Among its provisions, the bill targets anyone who documents an “image or sound” of animal suffering in a sweeping list of “animal facilities,” including factory farms, animal experimentation labs, and puppy mills.
But House File No. 1369 doesn’t stop there. The bill, introduced by six Republicans, also includes a number of other provisions that have popped up in “eco-terrorism” bills and “animal enterprise terrorism” laws over the years. Similar legislation has also been introduced in Florida and Iowa to target undercover investigators.
The Minnesota bill includes a number of dangerous parts. Among the most important:
- “Animal facility interference.” This provision targets those who, without the owner’s consent, “produce a record which reproduces an image or sound occurring at the animal facility.” Even worse, it targets those who “possess or distribute a record which produces an image or sound occurring at the animal facility.” In other words, these Republicans are not only targeting anyone who exposes abuses in these facilities, but anyone who distributes that information (presumably via DVD, or potentially YouTube videos). This is listed as a gross misdemeanor.
- “Animal facility tampering.” This provision targets those who take animals from these facilities. That, of course, is already a crime. But those provision also goes further, and includes “disrupting” the operations of such a facility. This kind of vague, overly broad language has also appeared in federal laws like the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act. People have a right to know what, exactly, is a crime; vague language like this has a chilling effect on lawful activism, and can be misused by an ambitious prosecutor. This is listed as a felony.
- “Animal facility fraud.” This provision specifically targets undercover investigators and whistleblowers. It targets those who obtain access to an animal facility by “false pretense” (such as a false name on a job application, in order to document abuses). This is listed as a gross misdemeanor.
The bill also includes parallel provisions for “crop operation interference,” “crop operation tampering,” and “crop operation fraud.”
All of this, of course, is part of a continued campaign by these corporations, and the politicians who represent them, to attack and silence their opponents. Groups like Mercy For Animals, PETA, Compassion Over Killing, and the Humane Society have repeatedly exposed systemic animal welfare violations in factory farms and other facilities. When people learn want goes on in these facilities, and see for themselves, they change what they buy. It’s a serious and effective threat to corporate profits.
Not surprisingly, this bill includes provisions for civil recovery and equitable relief, so that corporations can force activists to compensate them for any revenue lost due to the exposure of their violence.
And the people behind it? Representative Rod Hamilton, for instance, is past president of the Minnesota Pork Producers, and a current member.
If you’d like to voice your concern to the supporters of this bill: