Did you know that in some states, it's illegal to make undercover video of animal cruelty on farms? As surreal as it is, it's true. But one animal-rights activist is vowing to press on.
The activist, who has requested ABC News refer to him as "Pete," worked as an employee at Bettencourt Dairies in Idaho for three weeks last year on behalf of the animal rights group Mercy for Animals. As detailed in an ABC News report last week, Pete recorded employees beating, kicking and dragging dairy cows around the farm – animal abuse violations that resulted in criminal charges against three workers.Just in case you don't think these laws have an impact, animal-rights activists have been forced to stop active investigations in Iowa and Utah, where "ag-gag" laws took effect at the start of this year.
But investigations like the one at Bettencourt Dairies may not be possible in other states across the country should farm management and agriculture lobbyists get their way. Nine different state legislatures are considering so-called "ag-gag" bills that would place restrictions on the filming or use of undercover video on farms. Five states have already passed similar laws.
One of the states where a law is pending is Indiana. That bill's sponsor, state senator Travis Holdman, told ABC News that "vigilante groups" are butting in on the job of law enforcement. Um, Travis? Many of these cases of abuse wouldn't even get the attention of law enforcement if not for these videos.
"Pete," who claims to be responsible for 15 criminal cases in 11 years, was out in the field last week at Bettencourt Farms, a dairy farm in Idaho. He didn't take long to find shady goings-on.
In the Bettencourt case, Pete said the first day on the job he saw another employee dragging a cow on its side inside a milking barn, in full view of a manager who was present. The incident was recorded with a hidden camera and was one of several acts of animal cruelty that he documented during his employment. He said when he felt he had enough proof of animal cruelty, Mercy for Animals turned the footage over to local law enforcement. Criminal charges were brought against three employees; one of those pleaded guilty to misdemeanor animal cruelty.The farm's husband-and-wife owners say they fired the employees involved in the abuse as soon as they found out about it, and don't understand why "Pete" didn't tell them first. Sadly, not all farmers are as proactive--a main reason why we need these undercover videos.