A House panel has approved a bill that requires people making undercover videos of livestock operations to turn an unedited copy over to law enforcement officers within 24 hours.
Rep. Andy Holt, R-Dresden, said that “radical animal activist groups” have taken “months and months” of video recordings as abuse continues. Passage of his bill (HB1191) would protect both the state’s livestock industry and abused animals, he said.
An amendment was suggested to the measure that would exclude media from the bill’s requirement that unedited video, if made without permission of animal owners or those recorded, be turned over to law enforcement officers within 24 hours. In an interview, Holt said he was concerned that animal activists would simply call themselves media to avoid the proposed law.
Under the proposal, violations would be a misdemeanor crime, though punishable only a fine and not jail time.
Holt said that requiring video to be turned over to police was no different than current law requiring reporting of child abuse to authorities.
The bill was approved on voice vote of the House Agriculture Subcommittee and will be before the full Agriculture Committee next week. The subcommittee chairman, Rep. Ron Lollar, R-Bartlett, said he expects further consideration on the media exemption amendment then.
Last year, the Humane Society of the United States released an undercover video of a Tennessee Walking Horse trainer abusing horses to accentuate their performance of what is known as a “high leg kick.” The video led to penalties being imposed against the trainer and others.gs before making them public.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — An undercover video that showed California cows struggling to stand as they were prodded to slaughter by forklifts led to the largest meat recall in U.S. history. In Vermont, a video of veal calves skinned alive and tossed like sacks of potatoes ended with the plant’s closure and criminal convictions.
Now in a pushback led by the meat and poultry industries, state legislators across the country are introducing laws making it harder for animal welfare advocates to investigate cruelty and food safety cases.
Some bills make it illegal to take photographs at a farming operation. Others make it a crime for someone such as an animal welfare advocate to lie on an application to get a job at a plant.
Bills pending in California, Nebraska and Tennessee require that anyone collecting evidence of abuse turn it over to law enforcement within 24 to 48 hours — which advocates say does not allow enough time to document illegal activity under federal humane handling and food safety laws.
(Note: In Tennessee, the reference is to HB1191, sponsored by Rep. Andy Holt, R-Dresden, and Sen. Dolores Gresham, R-Somerville. Holt has it on notice for Wednesday in the House Agriculture Subcommittee, according to the legislative website.)
Two West Tennessee state legislators tried to pass a bill this year that would have made it a crime to conduct the kind of undercover investigation that produced video of horse abuse, reports Richard Locker. The video resulted in federal and state charges against a Collierville walking-horse trainer and three associates. The bill was filed in January by state Sen. Dolores Gresham, R-Somerville, and Rep. Andy Holt, R-Dresden, and appeared en route to passage in the Senate until it ran into opposition in a House subcommittee last month and died for the year.
As originally introduced, their bill — House Bill 3620/Senate Bill 3460 — would create a new state criminal offense “for a person to apply for employment with the intent to cause economic damage to the employer by means of unauthorized recording of video or audio while on the premises of the employer and releasing such recordings to a third party.”
The bill also declared that “All recordings taken in violation of this section shall be confiscated and, after used as evidence, destroyed.”
…A spokesman for the Humane Society of the United States said Thursday the Gresham-Holt bill would have made it illegal for the organization to have sent a representative undercover to work at Tennessee Walking Horse trainer Jackie McConnell’s Whitter Stables in Fayette County near Collierville.
McConnell, 60, of Collierville, and three associates are charged in a 52-count federal indictment in Chattanooga with violating the federal Horse Protection Act. He also faces state charges of violating Tennessee’s Cruelty to Animals Act.
The Humane Society released its undercover video Thursday, showing horses being prodded with electric prods, having chemicals applied to their legs, struck with sticks and subjected to other abuses. (Note: the video is available HERE.)
HSUS said the video was shot in 2011 at Whitter Stables by an undercover representative who applied for a job and worked at the stables for about seven weeks. The video aired on ABC’s “Nightline” Wednesday night and “Good Morning America” on Thursday and is now posted on the HSUS website. The abuses it shows have sparked outrage nationally.
….Holt could not be reached Thursday but Gresham said she wasn’t aware of the HSUS investigation at any time, doesn’t know McConnell and that the bill’s purpose was to ensure that such recordings “get to law enforcement, not to third parties.”
“I just went to the HSUS website and saw the video that they had put on the website. That video needs to be on (Fayette County Dist. Atty.) Mike Dunavant’s desk, not on the internet.”
Gresham said it should be up to law enforcement whether to make videos publicly available, regardless of the Humane Society’s position that posting it raises public awareness of abuse.
State troopers and Metro police officers conducted undercover operations in order to infiltrate Occupy Nashville protesters in the days leading up to the controversial arrests last month, according to records reviewed by The Tennessean. Responding to increasing reports of illegal and lewd behavior among Occupy Nashville protesters, Tennessee Highway Patrol troopers dressed in street clothes and mingled among the crowd, according to the documents.
Unmarked vehicles also made regular rounds of the public square above the Legislative Plaza office building, where the protests have taken place every day since early October. Occupy Nashville protesters, like their national counterparts in Occupy Wall Street, oppose undue corporate influence on government.
An email from Department of Safety and Homeland Security Assistant Commissioner David Purkey instructed two officers to wear “blend in clothing” for the operation.
Occupy Nashville spokeswoman Dorsey Malina said protesters were aware of the undercover officers because they did a poor job of blending in. “We knew that there were certain people here that were probably undercover.” Malina said she was unsurprised to learn of the undercover efforts.