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Utah’s Ag-Gag Bill Now Law

It’s official. If you take undercover video of farm animal abuse in Utah, you’re breaking the law, are guilty of a Class A misdemeanor, and could face jail time. Gov. Gary Herbert has signed H.B. 197 into law.

Most undercover video is taken by someone working for an animal protection group who gets a job at a factory farm. Now anyone who applies for a job will have to answer the question:

“Are you affiliated with a news organization, labor union, or animal protection group?”

And if it turns out you’ve given a false answer, you cam be arrested. The new law only applies to people taking jobs at these farm-related facilities.

Iowa recently passed the first Ag-Gag law, and other states, including Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Tennessee, and New York are considering similar legislation.

Animal protection groups are not the only organizations alarmed by this turn of events. Food Safety News says that undercover investigators are essential to a safe food supply:

Food safety often benefits from those campaigns. Animals under the severe stress of cruelty are more susceptible to disease and pathogen infections and are not supposed to end up as human food.

If Iowa-Utah style anti-video laws has been in effect in California four years ago, the nation’s school children might still be eating ground beef from a Chino packing plant that was found using incredibly cruel methods to force sickened “downer” cows through to slaughter.

Instead, the undercover work by the Humane Society of the U.S. resulted in the largest beef recall in history and stopped future sales to the National School Lunch program.

Ignoring such concerns, the Utah Farm Bureau argues that the public doesn’t derive any benefits from videos taken at factory farms. They say that suspected violations should be reported to local authorities. And the people who run these facilities say whistleblowers should report abuse to their superiors – i.e. to the people who are already turning a blind eye to it.

A new organization, Farm Forward, is encouraging people to add their names to a petition that states:

I believe that citizens have a right to know about how food animals are raised and slaughtered. Ag-gag is a bad idea because we should punish the people who commit animal abuse, not the people who report it.