BOISE — A bill to jail people who secretly film animal abuse at Idaho’s agricultural facilities is headed to Gov. Butch Otter’s desk.
What foes of the measure dub the “ag gag bill” passed the House 56-14 Wednesday afternoon with a near party-line split. The Senate backed it 23-10 earlier this month.
If Otter signs the bill into law, anyone who films or records on an agricultural operation without permission will face up to a year in jail. That’s double the maximum penalty for animal cruelty under Idaho law.
The bill, promoted heavily by Idaho’s dairy industry, comes after videos released by Los Angeles-based vegetarian and animal rights group Mercy for Animals showed workers at Bettencourt Dairy beating, stomping and sexually abusing cows in 2012. An activist secretly filmed the abuse after getting a job at the dairy.
Backers of the bill say it halts media-savvy activists from unfairly damaging the reputation of Idaho farmers using ill-gotten footage of wrongdoing. The Mercy for Animals group responsible for the videos, for example, continued to release and publicize the recordings even after the workers who abused dairy cows were fired and prosecuted.