Vance agreed with Keiffer that the legislative laws being proposed at the state level to censor undercover videos by activists is a bit absurd.
“They are viewed by the average reporter and the average consumer as an attempt to suppress whistle-blowers,” says Vance. “I don’t care if that’s not the intent of the legislation, that’s what it looks like on television.”
Ultimately, the amount of transparency and accountability presented to the public is left up to the individual producer or operation.
“You have to ask yourself for a minute, if what’s happening on my farm, processing facility, or business was on YouTube, would it look good to the average person on the street?” Vance said. “If the answer is ‘yes,’ hallelujah, move on. If the answer is ‘no,’ then you have to say, ‘How can I fix this? How can I YouTube-proof this?’
“Now, if the issue is animal husbandry and not abuse, we have a lot of work to do there, don’t we?”
Ag-gag over the years
The recent phenomenon of undercover video has led to public distrust in agriculture and created the need for states to stop secret recordings at farms through legislation.
A few states were ahead of the trend enacting farm protection laws over 20 years ago. However, the majority of the country is just now approaching the issue — and it has seen mixed results.
In 1990, Kansas passed the first farm protection legislation that prevented photography or videotaping in an animal facility without the consent of the owner. The primary intent of this law was to prevent criminal tampering or damage being done to facilities by activists. Montana and North Dakota passed similar laws the following year.
Farm protection bills remained dormant until Iowa sent a bill to the Legislature in 2011 prohibiting the production, possession or distribution of an image or sound recorded at an animal facility without the consent of the owner. The bill eventually became law during the start of 2012. Florida, New York and Minnesota also had legislation proposed in 2011, but the bills did not make it to a vote.
Later in 2012, Missouri and Utah passed their own laws, while Indiana, Illinois and Nebraska had bills that died in committee or were tabled for a later date.
This past year has seen an onslaught of legislation being proposed at the state level. Arkansas passed a farm protection bill in April and seven other states have yet to vote on their proposals.