An Idaho State Senate bill is well on its way to becoming law which would make Idaho the ninth state in the country to implement legislations designed to criminalize whistleblowers from outing Big Ag company indescrepencies, commonly known as “ag-gag bills.”
Last Friday, Idaho SB 1337 passed the Idaho State Senate with a 23-10 vote. SB 1337 will criminalize any entrance on company property not permitted by the company to “make audio or video recordings of the conduct of an agricultural production facility’s operations.” The law dictates a penalty of up $5,000 in fines and one year in jail.
The push for Idaho’s ag-gag legislation picked up speed in 2012 after the animal rights advocacy group Mercy for Animals released footage of an Idaho dairy plant’s operations. The operation involved a man with Mercy for Animals who got a job at the dairy plant to investigate the facility’s treatment of animals.
The footage revealed workers at Bettencourt Dairies, a cheese supplier for Burger King, savagely assaulting cows with punches and kicks and beating them with batons. The cows at this facility were shown to live in filthy conditions and are sometimes dragged by the neck with a chain and tractor. The workers in the video were fired and then later prosecuted and found guilty of their crimes.
The video was condemned by right-wingers and insiders of Idaho’s milk industry as an act of terrorism. They said that these “agri-terrorists” mainly wanted to damage Bettencourt’s business. Republican State Sen. Jim Patrick, the bill’s sponsor, has made some outrageous comparisons between Mercy for Animals and the terrorist organization al-Qaeda, as he thinks they are a threat to America’s food supply.
“We as a nation are at risk of losing a lot of our food to terrorism,” said Patrick. He also said that “extreme animal activists” were like “invading marauders” of ancient civilizations who starved their enemies.
“This is clear back in the sixth century B.C.,” he said. “This is the way you combat your enemies.”
Patrick’s hyperbole wrongly pictures animal rights advocates as war-mongering terrorists who are out to throw America into a famine. However, Big Ag is the barbaric entity that advocates cruelty and manipulates the political system in order to freely operate with brutality and inhumanity.
The legislative landscape in Idaho is dark for animal rights groups. SB 1337 passed the state senate with substantial support and still has to go through the Republican-dominated state House where, if passed, will end up on the desk of C.L. Otter, Idaho’s Republican governor.