Growing up on a farm, one of my biggest responsibilities was tending to the animals in our family’s care. At times livestock can be unpredictable in ways that are both amusing and frustrating, but much like a parent cares for their child, I cannot think of a moment that my top priority was not in the best interest of our animals and our land.
That is not saying that our livestock always respond in a positive manner to our practices. They are not capable of understanding how regular occurrences on the farm like vaccinations are for their benefit. I often wonder how others would respond if videos and pictures were shared out of context while I was caring for our animals.
This fear has led to proposed legislation in several states that make it illegal for video to be filmed on farms without the knowledge of the owner. In several ways this makes total sense. A farm is private property and placing undercover video in a farmer’s barn without permission is not much different than placing a hidden camera in the privacy of somebody’s home without their knowledge.
However, I am not a fan of these types of laws. They reduce transparency and make others question some very good practices that farmers utilize today to care for their livestock.
Recently on The Ellen Show CEO of The Humane Society of The United States Wayne Pacelle discussed these proposed bills calling them “ag gag bills.” He compared them to the recent bombings in Boston, stating that if it were not for citizens rights to film video during the marathon police may still be looking for those responsible. While this is true, it is also true that if anyone had evidence that the bombings were being planned and didn’t report it, they can be charged an accomplice.
This is why I am confused as to why HSUS and PETA have sought to block legislation in Vermont, California and Tennessee that would require anyone filming animal abuse to provide the unedited video to authorities. These are not bills that would “gag” anyone from filming video on farms at all; in fact they could be seen as legislation that better defines how an untrained undercover investigator can legally take video surveillance on private property. They also allow authorities to be properly notified in a timely manner so they can assist with the investigation before the video is used by anti-farm groups to gain publicity by releasing it to the media or posting on the internet.
Abuse of animals is wrong, period. Whether the abuser is a farmer, trainer, breeder or an animal protection group using abuse for personal gain, the abuse is still sick and deranged. Standing up against legislation that ensures that documentation of abuse is properly reported in a timely manner in no way protects animals, but only allows for them to suffer longer.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Mike Haley.
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