Friday, March 18, 2011

Iowa House Republicans pass bill to cover up animal abuse

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No photography sign
Not in places with wrongdoing occurring. Signed, Republicans

Oh, how deliciously (yet horrifyingly) revealing. Just over a week after we learned that Florida Republicans wanted to ban the photography of farms over vague concerns of intellectual property infringement, it now appears that Republican legislators in Iowa took inspiration from Uzza's snarky comment and have now passed a bill that would prevent the hiring of animal rights activists on farms with the explicit aim of stopping them from secretly filming various atrocities being committed there:

The bill has had strong support from farmers angered by repeated releases of secretly filmed videos claiming to show the mistreatment of farm animals. It was introduced after groups around the nation released videos showing cows being shocked, pigs being beaten and chicks ground up alive.

The Republican-led House approved the measure 65-27. It must pass the Democratic-controlled Senate and be signed by Republican Gov. Terry Branstad to become law.

The bill would make it illegal to secretly record and distribute videos and punish those who take jobs on farms only to gain access to record animals' treatment. Penalties include up to five years in prison and fines of up to $7,500.

As if that wasn’t twisted enough, bill proponents are actually arguing that this legislation would actually encourage farm workers to report abuse more often:

Rep. Annette Sweeney, the bill's manager, said she thinks the bill will lead people to report abuse when they see it rather than wait and publicize it.

"As a livestock producer, I want people to feel if they see something going on, this bill empowers them," said Sweeney, an Alden Republican and a rancher.

What sort of mental gymnastics does one have to pull off to claim that a bill intended specifically to criminalize the revealing of agricultural animal cruelty to the public would actually lead to more of these cases being exposed? You know, I’m not too sure if Rep. Sweeney is being all that honest, here.

And as if that reasoning weren’t egregious enough:

Tom Shipley, a lobbyist with the Iowa Cattlemen's Association, said there have been instances in the state where people have gained employment under false pretenses in order to make videos.

"Perhaps not at cattle operations yet, but it has happened in other species," Shipley said. "There really is very little ability to prosecute these people and organizations when they do these kinds of things."

Which is how it should be. Because they do investigative work that needs to be done. We’re not talking about assholes who like to stage fake photos with the sole aim of discrediting the entire industry, humane and regulation-abiding farmers included. If your operation is replete with animals being tortured and slaughtered in ways that would make Hannibal Lector blanche, you deserve to be exposed for it, and people who air your dirty linens have every ethical (and, unless this bill passes, legal) right to do so.

It’s just so nice to see those trusty Republicans fighting on the right side of things as they always do, ain’t it?

(via @ggreenwald)