Saying that agricultural producers must be “secure in their property and their livelihood,” on Friday, Idaho Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter signed the highly controversial Senate Bill 1337, known as “Ag-Gag,” into law.
Over 100,000 animal-rights advocates signed a petition calling for Otter to veto the bill, which makes it a crime punishable by a year in jail and a $5,000 fine to make secret video recordings of agricultural operations. The advocates argue that the law takes away their only way to combat animal abuse.
Animal abuse came to the public’s attention when Los Angeles-based Mercy for Animals videotaped animals being abused and sexually molested at Idaho’s Bettencourt Dairy in 2012. In pushing back, the Idaho Dairymen’s Association claimed that the animals-rights activists’ true motive was to harm the dairy’s brand rather than help animals.
The controversial bill was discussed here on Food Dive when it first introduced in Illinois. Although the dairy industry may appear to be just looking after its own interests with its support, some of those involved are able to look beyond self-interest and recognize an ethical imperative.
When it came to the decision in Idaho, Chobani yogurt founder Hamdi Ulukaya separated himself from the other members of the $2.4-billion Idaho dairy industry and advised the governor to veto the bill on the grounds that it “would limit transparency and make some instances of exposing the mistreatment of animals in the state punishable by imprisonment.” Unfortunately, Ulukaya’s words went unheeded. For now it seems that the law will punish those looking to expose animal abuse, making it possible for cruelty to go on unrecorded and unpunished.