Utah Bill Would Ban Unauthorized Photography on Farms

Those who photograph or videotape conditions at livestock operations without farm owners' consent could be criminally prosecuted if a bill now pending in the Utah legislature becomes law.

Sponsored by Utah State Rep. John Mathis, DVM, HB 187 (the Agricultural Operation Interference bill) would forbid anyone from recording still or videotaped images and sounds at agricultural operations used to produce livestock, poultry, livestock products, or poultry products without the expressed permission of the farm's owner or the owner's agent. If the bill becomes law, violators could face misdemeanor criminal charges. Members of the Utah House of Representatives approved HB187 by a 60-14 margin. The bill was introduced into the State Senate on Feb. 28.

Utah Farm Bureau Chief Executive Officer Randy Parker said that his organization supports the bill because it protects farmers and ranchers from overzealous animal welfare advocates and disgruntled employees who could use photographs and videotapes to make unfounded animal abuse allegations: "We (the Farm Bureau) don't condone the mistreatment or cruelty toward any animal. But farmers have a right to private property and privacy. There has to be some balance."

Some animal welfare advocates opposed the bill on grounds that its passage would eliminate evidence-gathering tools used to prosecute animal cruelty and neglect cases.

"If an individual steps on someone else's property and takes a picture of a horse that appears to be starving, and then provides that photograph to the authorities, that person would be in violation of this proposed law," said a written statement from Gene Baierschmidt, executive director of the Humane Society of Utah.

The agency also opposes the bill on grounds that it would provide special evidence-gathering protection for agricultural operations not extended to other industries such as health care and manufacturing operations, the statement said.

HB 187 remains pending in the Utah State Senate.

About the Author

Pat Raia

Pat Raia is a veteran journalist who enjoys covering equine welfare, industry, and news. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horse, Sonny.

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