Eye On Boise

Group that made dairy abuse video decries new bill as ‘attempt to silence whistleblowers’

Mercy for Animals, the national group that took the hidden-camera video that showed workers at a southern Idaho dairy beating, kicking and jumping on cows and led to criminal charges against the workers, has issued a statement today decrying the introduction of legislation yesterday to impose harsh criminal penalties on making such videos of a production facilities, and also outlawing lying on farm job applications; a fine of up to $5,000 would be imposed and/or up to a year in jail for violations.

Nathan Runkle, MFA executive director, said, “Without Mercy For Animals' investigation this abuse would have gone on undetected, unaddressed, and unpunished.” He said, “Idaho has some of the weakest animal cruelty laws in the nation. Lawmakers should be focusing on strengthening these pathetic laws, not silencing whistleblowers who expose abuse."

Statement from Nathan Runkle, executive director of Mercy For Animals:

“In 2012, Mercy For Animals released an undercover video exposing horrific animal abuse at Idaho's Bettencourt Dairies - one of the largest dairy factory farms in the country and cheese supplier to Burger King. The hidden-camera video showed workers viciously beating and shocking cows, violently twisting their tails in order to deliberately inflict pain, and dragging a downed cow by her neck using a chain attached to a tractor. Idaho's dairy industry is clearly incapable of self-regulation and without Mercy For Animals' investigation this abuse would have gone on undetected, unaddressed, and unpunished.

“This legislation is a desperate attempt to sweep evidence of animal cruelty under the rug. Rather than improve conditions for animals on dairy factory farms, pro-agribusiness legislators in Idaho are attempting to silence whistleblowers who expose abuse and other serious crimes at factory farms. If this dangerous ag-gag bill passes, factory farmers in Idaho will be able to continue abusing animals with impunity.

“Idaho's ag-gag bill is a blatant violation of free speech and freedom of the press. It keeps consumers in the dark, threatens public health, and hurts animals by shielding animal abusers from public scrutiny and criminal liability. Idaho has some of the weakest animal cruelty laws in the nation. Lawmakers should be focusing on strengthening these pathetic laws, not silencing whistleblowers who expose abuse.

“Consumers have a right to know how their food is being produced and how animals on factory farms are abused and neglected so they can make informed choices. Idaho's factory farms clearly have a lot of horribly corrupt and abusive practices to hide if they are willing to go to these despicable measures to conceal their cruel practices from the public's view.”




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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Russell covers Idaho news from the state capitol in Boise and writes the Eye on Boise blog.

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