Animal rights group is doing massive spin doctoring and distortion to oppose it.
by Dennis Halladay, Hoard's Dairyman Western Editor
A bill that would make it illegal to trespass or use fraudulent misrepresentation to gain entry onto a farm for the purpose of making secret videos has been sent to Idaho Governor Butch Otter for his signature.
If approved, the bill will become law immediately. Violators would be subject to up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $5,000, and would be required to pay restitution that is double the value of any damage resulting from their actions.
The bill has been on a fast track since it was introduced earlier this year. It was passed 23-10 in the state Senate on February 12, 13-1 in the House Agricultural Affairs Committee on February 20, and 56-14 in the full House on February 26.
The legislation comes as the result of a secret video filmed at Dry Creek Dairy in Hansen, Idaho, in the summer of 2012 by a Mercy for Animals employee who had been hired at the dairy and worked for 19 days. Five of the dairy's employees were seen in the video, three of who struck and abused cows.
Mercy for Animals has pulled out all stops in a public relations blitz opposing the bill, which includes graphic television commercials in Boise claiming that stopping and/or prohibiting secret videos violate citizens' right to free speech. On February 26 it also delivered a nationwide 113,000-signature petition opposing the bill to Otter's office.
It is taking the approach that the ends justify any of its means. To people in the dairy industry, those means revolve around defamation of character and de facto extortion by using the negative public opinion it cultivates to pressure food companies to stop doing business with farms where videos are filmed.
Idaho Dairymen's Association (IDA) has taken off its gloves to fight back.
A February 21 press release, IDA bluntly said that opponents claim their interest in exposing animal cruelty overrides farmers' constitutionally protected private property and privacy rights under the Constitution, since many farm families live on their farms, and that anyone should be allowed to enter an agricultural facility and record the conduct of its operation without the owner's consent.
The release also pointed out an extortion tactic used in a recent letter from the Idaho director of the Humane Society of the United States to the owner of Dry Creek Dairy regarding the TV commercials that were being run: "I urge you to work with your fellow Idaho dairy operators (whose reputations could similarly be harmed if this footage were re-aired time and again)."
IDA executive director Bob Naerebout minced no words in expressing his interpretation of the letter's message to the Idaho dairy industry: "Do as we demand or we will hurt you and your fellow producers."
The author has served large Western dairy readers for the past 36 years and manages Hoard's WEST, a publication written specifically for Western herds. He is a graduate of Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo, majored in journalism and is known as a Western dairying specialist.
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