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Utah Bans Undercover Farm Photos


Protests in Iowa failed to prevent the “Ag-Gag” bill from passage there.

Hard on the heels of Iowa’s ban on undercover investigations of factory farms, Utah passed a bill on Wednesday that ban photographing farm animals or operations under “false pretenses.” Both houses of the Legislature overwhelmingly voted for passage, and the bill now goes to Gov. Gary Herbert for his signature.

Along with objections from the Utah Humane Society and national animal protection organizations, the National Press Photographers Association had attacked the bill. But the only tweak that was made to the wording before the final vote was so that it “doesn’t include people who are going to a farm on a field trip” and said it targets just “people who gain access under false pretenses.”

State Senator Dave Hinkins, the sponsor of the bill, said whistle-blower laws would protect legitimate farm workers who report or take pictures of wrongdoing, but the new bill would stop activists from gaining jobs or access under false pretenses to take videos of operations – which he contended, without offering evidence, are often altered to attack the ranching industry.

“It’s vegetarian people who are trying to kill the animal industry,” he said

Sen. Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake City, said he had received more emails on this bill than any other topic this year. “It came from California to Paris.”

Nathan Runkle, executive director of Mercy for Animals, whose investigations have uncovered horrific abuse at factory farms, denounced passage of the bill.

“Not only could this Ag-Gag bill perpetuate animal abuse, it endangers workers’ rights, consumer health and safety, and the freedom of journalists, employees and the public at large to share information about something as fundamental as our food supply. This bill is bad for consumers, who want more, not less, transparency in food production,” he said.

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