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23 March 2014 - You Go, Idaho!

Imagine, if you can, how you would feel if a perfect stranger came into your home with a video camera and started shooting video of you and your family going about your daily activities; feeding the kids, feeding the pets, or whatever, and then taking that video and showing it to the world, claiming you were mistreating your kids or you were mistreating your animals. Or, what if you hired someone to come into your home to do housecleaning or carpentry and they were secretly shooting video that they would take out and share with the world. I don’t think you would like it; I know I wouldn’t.

That might help you understand how farmers and ranchers feel when people, uninvited, come onto their property and do the same thing. Particularly in the case of livestock producers, people on the premises under false pretenses will bring video out and say this is what all livestock producers are doing, mistreating their animals. That is why more and more states are passing or considering legislation that will make it a crime or felony.

In Idaho, the dairy group that authored legislation that makes it a crime to secretly film or interfere with agricultural operations in that state are now the victims of a Federal lawsuit. A coalition of animal rights, civil liberties, food safety and other groups filed a federal lawsuit on St. Patrick’s Day that seeks to overturn Idaho’s Ag Security Act, which was signed into law Feb 28th.

The legislation makes it a crime for someone to gain employment in an Idaho agricultural operation through deception with the intent to cause economic harm and other damage to the operation. It would also prohibit people from making an audio or video recording of the facility’s operations without the owner’s consent.

The attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union said the state has chosen to “protect the speech of the agricultural industry at the expense of those who are critiquing it.” He went on to say the “agricultural industry is trying to shield themselves from critique and they’re doing it at the expense of the First Amendment.”

I totally disagree. This is not a free speech issue, it is a personal property rights and privacy issue. I think it should be a crime for people to come onto a farm or ranch, illegally, and shoot video, then show it to the world. We all know there are rotten apples in every profession, but to take one incident and claim it is industry-wide is wrong. I hope the Court rules the law is constitutional.

My thoughts on Samuelson Sez.