Idaho Bill Banning Secret Video Of Farms Moves Ahead

By Jessica Robinson

A measure that seeks to bar animal rights activists from making undercover video in Idaho dairies is moving ahead in the state House. What critics call the “ag gag” bill is a reaction to a 2012 video that showed workers abusing cows at a farm near Twin Falls. Farmers say they need protection from what they call “vigilante” tactics.

A legislative panel heard nearly three hours of public testimony on the bill. Brent Olmstead is the head of Milk Producers of Idaho. He says animal rights activists are using surreptitiously obtained video of isolated incidents to shame farmers and drive away their customers.

Brent Olmstead: “They know how to take a story, they know how to spin a story and they use that story against the dairymen.”

The bill would make it a crime to film agricultural operations without permission – as well as seek farm employment under false pretenses. That's how a member of the group Mercy for Animals was able to document workers beating, punching and kicking cows at an Idaho farm in 2012. Scott Beckstead is the Oregon director of the Humane Society. He told Idaho lawmakers they shouldn't be targeting the messenger.

Scott Beckstead: “The activist who filmed that conduct performed a very valuable service for the million of consumers out there.”

The measure has already won approval of the Idaho Senate. It now heads to the floor of the House.

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