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Originally published February 20 2013

New bill aims to strip food consumer rights by banning undercover videos at farms and food plants

by J. D. Heyes

(NaturalNews) Some politicians in Indiana are looking to circumvent full disclosure and the First Amendment with legislation that would ban undercover videos at food processing plants and farms.

According to Indianapolis TV station WTHR, any videos that would show claims of illegal or inhumane treatment of animals - videos which are most often shot secretly - would become illegal under the new bill.

"The videos, often shot with undercover cameras, lead to changes and highlight serious concerns about the health of the food we eat," the station said in its online report.

Five years ago, the report noted, an undercover video led to the largest food recall in U.S. history. Activists who documented it said the ends justified the means.

Anti-whistleblower legislation?

Indiana is just one of five states currently considering legislation what would ban all uses of undercover video. Supporters of such legislation say undercover video is little more than a blatant act of industrial espionage and is done without the consent of the owner.

"This simply is a protection against the surreptitious and, oftentimes, staged recording, which frequently is undertaken by trespassers, not employees," Bob Kraft of the Farm Bureau told the station.

He said that many times; the video or still pictures taken undercover are used by activist groups whose goal is political, such as the elimination of all meats from Americans' diets.

Opponents of such legislation; however, say the measure is nothing more than an attack against whistleblowers.

"Through whistleblowing employees and investigations of animal cruelty, food safety issues and workers' rights issues have been exposed to the public," said Matthew Dominguez, of the Humane Society of the United States, an animal rights organization.

"The public is finally learning what is happening on these industrial operations and, instead of working to fix these abuses from happening in the future, the industry has decided to introduce anti-whistleblower bills," said Dominguez.

WTHR said Indiana lawmakers are currently considering three separate bills that deal with the issue.

Efforts to ban undercover videos from farm operations has been underway for a couple of years. The New York Times reported in April 2011 that Iowa, a heavily agricultural state, was considering such legislation.

That bill would have made it a crime to produce, possess or distribute photos and video taken without permission at an agricultural facility. In addition, the bill "would also criminalize lying on an application to work at an agriculture facility 'with an intent to commit an act not authorized by the owner,'" the Times reported, quoting the legislation.

'They don't want you to see what's going on'

At the time, similar legislation was being considered in Minnesota and Florida, all as part of a broader effort by large farming companies to pre-emptively ban the type of investigations that have typically caused them discomfort and left their operations open to scrutiny.

"It's because they don't want you to see what's going on that we've resorted to employee investigations," Wayne Pacelle, head of the Humane Society, told the paper.

Use of undercover techniques to expose abuses in food processing operations dates back to when Upton Sinclair, author of The Jungle, spent weeks working at meatpacking plants a century ago to research his groundbreaking book. His extremely graphic details of the industry led the federal government to adopt safety regulations that made food production safer.

A 2008 investigation of a pig farm in Iowa showed workers there beating sows and piglets and then bragging about it. That undercover video was shot by members of the group PETA, or People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. The group turned over its video to law enforcement, which in turn led to criminal prosecutions and convictions against the farm workers.


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