September 16, 2014

Shoot video of animal abuse? Face 10 years in prison

A bill moving through the Iowa Legislature would send people to prison for up to a decade if they go into a livestock confinement and videotape abuse of the animals.

Senator Sandy Greiner, a Republican from Keota, says the legislation is a response to actions by groups like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, which have released videos taken from inside livestock confinements.

“I mean, they film it to bring a business down and that individual that’s abusing those animals should be prosecuted as well as the person filming because they’re allowing it to happen without attempting to stop it.”

Representative Annette Sweeney, a Republican from Alden, says it’s about biosecurity, too, as the people employed at animal confinements should take their responsibilities seriously.

“Whenever you’re hired in an egg facility, a hog facility, you go in and you sign a code of conduct,” Sweeney says. “You say if you see anybody abusing animals, you’re going to tell your employer that that person is doing that — and you are bound by that code of conduct.”

The bill has cleared a subcommittee in the Iowa Senate and the full House Agriculture Committee approved the bill Wednesday afternoon. Only one member of the House Ag Committee voted against the proposal.

Representative Chuck Isenhart, a Democrat from Dubuque, says the bill may be a violation of the First Amendment.

“Dating back to the last century, we have investigative reporters in the context of their job exposing what at that time were very serious issues related to the slaughterhouse industry — and I’m not suggesting any of that kind of stuff is occurring now — but to the extent that this may be perceived, the way it’s written, to chill that First Amendment right of the press, for that reason I’ll be voting against the bill,” Isenhart said during committee debate of the bill.

The House Ag Committee tabled another measure which some have dubbed the “Right to Farm” bill. Supporters say they’ll work to iron out kinks and hope to pass the legislation in 2012.