Photos, Private Property and Politics
There has been a fair amount of discussion recently over legislation being submitted across the country that would make it illegal for someone to photograph or shoot video on agricultural operations without the permission of the owner. Discussions on this type of legislation has been very polar, with folks either in full support or adamantly opposed. I find myself aligning more in the middle.
First, Senator Jim Norman (R) of Florida proposed the legislation, SB 1246, on Feb. 21, 2011.
“An act relating to farms; prohibiting a person from entering onto a farm or photographing or video recording a farm without the owner’s written consent; providing a definition; providing penalties; providing an effective date.”
Also considering similar legislation is the state of Iowa which introduced, on March 2, 2011, House File 589.
“HF 589 addresses concerns of bio-security of Iowa’s animal industry and the well-being of animals. The bill protects livestock and crop operations against unauthorized destruction, killing or injuring of stock, or disruption of agricultural or bio-technical operations on an owner’s premise. Additionally, it makes it unlawful to produce, possess, or distribute an unauthorized recording (sound or image) at an animal or crop operation.”
Arguments against legislation that protects private property rights and bio-security have been the loudest from activist groups that are against the ownership of animals and promote vegan lifestyles. Other groups, who have weighed in with reasonable questions to the legislation, have brought to light some valid questions.
I believe that the Iowa bill is much better than the Florida option as it more closely aligns with my thoughts on the issue. Having said that, I compiled six points that I feel are important to understand and address when drafting legislation on this matter. I believe it is important to protect the safety and health of Americas livestock and food sources as well as empower people to report the abuse of animals and unsanitary conditions.
1. Members of the public may take all of the photos and video they want to from PUBLIC property. However, farms and ranches are PRIVATE property. If a person enters private property, without the landowners permission, that is called TRESPASSING and is against the law.
2. Bio-security is a serious issue for livestock producers that is not realized or understood by the public. Individuals entering multiple facilities, without the consent or knowledge of the owner, are at risk of spreading bacteria and viruses between operations, putting the health of the livestock in jeopardy.
3. Individuals who take photos or video, “undercover,” that show abusive actions should immediately report the action to the appropriate authority for appropriate action. Failure to immediately report abusive actions to respective authorities qualifies them as an accomplice, in my humble opinion.
4. All facilities that process livestock and commodities for consumption should have third-party surveillance in place to identify abuse, unsafe working conditions and potential food safety issues.
5. The vast majority of farm, ranch, auction yard, feeding and processing facility owners want to be made aware of employees who are abusive or conditions that place the health of the livestock in jeopardy, immediately.
6. Members of the public, wishing to visit and/or tour livestock operations and facilities should always ask for permission first, abide by the safety protocols and bring any issues of concern, that are observed, to the attention of the owner or manager immediately. If questions still remain, the appropriate authority should be contacted.
What are your thoughts on this issue?