In February 2012, an animal activist group, Mercy For Animals, filmed undercover footage of horrific animal abuse at Bettencourt Dairies’ Dry Creek Dairy in Idaho, and gave the full, un-edited video to authorities. According to Magic Valley News, the owner, Luis Bettencourt, fired the employees and installed his own cameras around the diary farm. Of the five terminated employees, three were investigated by the Twin Falls County Sheriff’s Office, and some eventually charged.
Then Idaho lawmakers said, why go after animal cruelty when you can go after animal rights activists?
However, it was not the animal abuse which enraged Idaho lawmakers, but the animal activists who filmed and eventually released the video on their YouTube page. Apparently the big, mean animal activists were going to destroy the poor old agricultural industry with their scary videos. So, Idaho lawmakers proposed a so-called Ag-Gag law to criminalize the undercover filming of factory farm cruelty.
In response to the proposal, Mercy For Animals released a second video with never before publicly seen footage from the 2012 Bettencourt Dairies’ Dry Creek Dairy undercover investigation, and a message:
In direct response to an undercover investigation exposing horrific animal abuse and sexual assault at Bettencourt Dairies, Idaho’s largest dairy factory farm, corrupt lawmakers have introduced a bill to silence whistleblowers and keep the dairy industry’s dirty secrets hidden from public view.
You can watch the video below, but be aware that it is extremely graphic and contains disturbing language and images.
WARNING: GRAPHIC VIDEO:
<DIV ALIGN=”CENTER”>[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3PlJgBeOmZc&w=560&h=315]</DIV>
The video did nothing to dissuade the passing of the Ag-Gag law though, as it became the 6th state to outlaw this type of filming. According to the Los Angeles Times:
Idaho’s law made it a misdemeanor — punishable by up to a year in prison, plus potentially steep damages — to make secret recordings or misrepresent one’s identity to gain entrance to an agricultural facility.
Finally a win for factory farm animals against Ag-Gag laws in favor of continued undercover filming.
Surely, the public has a right to know what is being done to its food supply. Reforms in these huge industries never come out of the goodness of their hearts. Thankfully, U.S. Chief Judge B. Lynn Winmill of the District of Idaho ruled Monday that such laws are unconstitutional, and not only violate, but criminalize, free speech.
“The effect of the statute will be to suppress speech by undercover investigators and whistleblowers concerning topics of great public importance: the safety of the public food supply, the safety of agricultural workers, the treatment and health of farm animals, and the impact of business activities on the environment,” Winmill wrote in a summary judgment.
Hopefully, this will be upheld and Missouri, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, North Dakota, Utah and North Carolina, the other states with similar Ag-Gag laws, follow suit.
Featured image via video screen capture from YouTube