Friday, February 21, 2014

Bag the Ag Gag bill

    The Idaho House should reject what’s being called the Idaho “Ag Gag” bill that would make criminals of anyone who “makes audio or video recordings of the conduct of an agricultural production facility’s operations.” The bill’s definition of “agricultural production” covers pretty much every process that goes into producing foods of all kinds.
    The Idaho Senate lent its resounding support to the see-no-evil, hear-no-evil, speak-no-evil bill with a 2-1 vote to send SB 1337 to the House for approval.
    The bill would trample rights under the First Amendment and blindfold consumers in the name of protecting private property rights.
    Had the law been in place when an undercover activist filmed downed cows being beaten, kicked and dragged by chains at a Magic Valley dairy operation two years ago, he could have been charged with a misdemeanor, fined up to $5,000, thrown into jail for up to a year and forced to pay double restitution for damages.
    Putting private interests above public interests in the Constitution is troubling and egregious. However, what’s just as troubling is that the Idaho Senate may well reflect the attitudes of Idahoans.
    The problem may really lie with us as consumers who are uninterested in where our food and clothing come from, how it’s produced and who produces it.
    Are we really comfortable in clothing made by low-paid workers in foreign sweatshops? Do we wish to blindly consume food or use products that could sicken or kill us and our kids just because industry has convinced legislators to prohibit inspections or not to ban the use of damaging chemicals? Is the abuse of livestock really OK with us?
    The Idaho House, which now has the bill, should stop the headlong rush to criminalize the collection and release of information about the food we eat.

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