BOISE – Legislation to criminalize surreptitious filming at agricultural operations cleared an Idaho House committee with just one “no” vote on Thursday, and now heads to the full House.
The Senate earlier passed the bill on a 23-10 vote; it comes in the wake of a covertly taken video at a Southern Idaho dairy that showed workers severely abusing cows and led to five arrests. Commercials featuring the graphic video are being aired during Olympics coverage in the Boise area, urging people to contact their lawmakers and oppose the bill.
The lopsided vote came after a three-and-a-half-hour hearing at which passionate testimony was evenly split for and against the measure; farmers said they need protection from spying, while animal-protection backers said it’ll allow abuse to go undetected.
Tony VanderHulst, chairman of the Idaho Dairymen’s Association, told the House Agriculture Committee, “This is not about hiding anything. This is about exposing the real agenda of these radical groups that are engaged in terrorism.”
Scott Beckstead, a Humane Society of the United States official who was born and raised on a farm in Twin Falls, Idaho, said, “I would submit that this bill poses a greater threat to Idaho agriculture than all the video camera-wielding vegans in the world, because what this bill says is that Idaho agriculture does have something to hide.” Consumers will take note, he said.
To become law, the so-called “ag gag” bill, SB 1337, still needs passage in the full House and the governor’s signature. Violators would face up to a year in jail and up to $5,000 in fines.
Boise Democrat Mat Erpelding was the sole committee vote against the bill.