Utah “Ag Gag” Bill Passes House — Urgent Action Needed

by Will Potter on February 25, 2012

in Terrorism Legislation

A Utah bill that targets anyone who photographs or films factory farm abuses, which supporters describe as “terrorism,” has overwhelmingly passed the House.

HB 187, “Agricultural Operation Interference,” passed 60-14. (Here is a full list of those who voted for it.) The amended bill removes the sentencing provision that would make a second offense equivalent to assaulting a police officer. However, the bill remains dangerously overbroad. As Rep. David Litvack noted, the bill not only targets animal rights groups: “There is no whistleblower protection.”

“Ag Gag” bills are being considered in multiple states, but, if the Utah Senate approves, this would be the first of these proposals to become law.

The bills have been opposed by a broad coalition of 27 national organizations, including the animal protection groups (ASPCA, Humane Society of the United States, Mercy For Animals, and others), environmental groups such as the Natural Resources Defense Council, and others including the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union and National Press Photographers Association.

In a statement, the coalition said: “These bills represent a wholesale assault on many fundamental values shared by all people across the United States. Not only would these bills perpetuate animal abuse on industrial farms, they would also threaten workers’ rights, consumer health and safety, and the freedom of journalists, employees and the public at large to share information about something as fundamental as our food supply.”

I recently spoke with Sonali Kolhatkar at KPFK radio, Los Angeles, about these attempts to criminalize anyone who exposes what corporations don’t want consumers to see. As KPFK notes:

Hidden camera footage of situations like cows being dragged to slaughter and chickens packed into cages so tightly they cannot sit down have become a common educational tool of animal rights groups. Even mainstream news channels use the shocking footage when covering debates around animal cruelty and farming practices…Will Potter is the author of Green is the New Red: An Insider’s Account of a Social Movement Under Siege, in which he chronicles the ways in which environmental activists and others are increasingly being branded as domestic terrorists. We had interviewed Will when his book first came out and he now joins us once more.

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Here is a full list of the Utah Senate. If you live in Utah, please contact your senators and let them know that the state should be prosecuting people who abuse animals, not those who expose the abuse.

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