Dozens of protesters in black blindfolds, some with black tape over their mouths, gathered on the Statehouse steps yesterday to protest SB 1337, the so-called “ag gag” bill that would criminalize taking surreptitious video of photos of agricultural operations. Mercy For Animals, the group behind a graphic covert video taken at a southern Idaho dairy that led to criminal charges against employees for abuse of cows, organized the protest; participants carried signs with slogans including, “Punish Animal Abusers, Not Whistleblowers” and “Idaho: Safe haven for animal abuse.” KTBV-TV has a report here on the protest, including photos.
The bill creates a new crime of “interference with agricultural production,” with a penalty of up to one year in jail and up to $5,000 in fines. Violators also would have to pay double damages in restitution. The new crime would cover recording anything at an ag production operation without permission; intentionally damaging an ag operation, including crops, animals or equipment; misrepresenting oneself in seeking employment at an ag operation; or obtaining records of an ag operation by “force, threat, misrepresentation or trespass.” It’s on the 3rd reading calendar in the House, and could come up for debate and a vote as soon as today.