Despite objections by animal rights groups, the Legislature passed Wednesday a tweaked version of a bill to ban photographing farm animals or operations under "false pretenses."
The Senate passed HB187 on a 24-5 vote, then the House approved Senate amendments 62-13. The bill now goes to Gov. Gary Herbert for his signature.
The first version of the bill would have banned any photos of farm animals and operations without permission. Sen. Dave Hinkins, R-Orangeville, the Senate sponsor, amended the measure so that it "doesn’t include people who are going to a farm on a field trip" and said it targets just "people who gain access under false pretenses."
That came after groups such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the Utah Humane Society and the National Press Photographers Association had attacked the bill, warning it could thwart efforts to catch animal abusers.
Hinkins said whistle-blower laws would protect legitimate farm workers who report or take pictures of wrongdoing, but the new bill would stop activists from gaining jobs or access under false pretenses to take videos of operations — which he contends are often altered to attack the ranching industry.
"The farmers and the slaughterhouses, yes, they do actually raise animals to eat. Every time you go to McDonald’s, that’s what hamburgers are: a dead cow," Hinkins, a rancher, said in earlier debate. "I hate to break the news, but we’re getting a bad rap for this. And it’s vegetarian people who are trying to kill the animal industry."
Sen. Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake City, said he has received more emails on this bill than any other topic this year. "It came from California to Paris."
Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, said, the measure being passed is "vastly different than how the bill started out," and is more refined and targeted.
Nathan Runkle, executive director of Mercy for Animals, denounced passage of the bill.
"Not only could this Ag-Gag bill perpetuate animal abuse, it endangers workers’ rights, consumer health and safety, and the freedom of journalists, employees and the public at large to share information about something as fundamental as our food supply. This bill is bad for consumers, who want more, not less, transparency in food production," he said.
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