Indiana Senate Committee Approves Bill Against Undercover Video In Farms

By Emma Koch

Indiana Senate Committee Approves Bill Against Undercover Video In Farms

February 13, 2013 Updated Nov 8, 2013 at 2:59 PM EDT

INDIANA (www.incnow.tv) -- Tuesday, a Senate committee voted (7-2) to approve a Bill 373 that makes it illegal to photograph or videotape a farm or industry with the intent to embarrass, annoy or harm the business.

This was a hot topic Tuesday on Indiana's NewsCenter's Facebook page. Many say that the undercover videos expose farms and businesses that practice inhumane treatment of animals. Others say it's a matter of privacy.

The bill means that any member of the public that posts videos of these practices for public consumption could face legal sanctions ranging from an infraction for a first offense to a class A misdemeanor for a second offense, punishable by up to a $5,000 fine.

According to lawmakers, the bill was filed because an Indiana farmer reported a delivery person taking video with his phone and when asked could give no valid explanation.

This caused alarm for Indiana lawmakers because in 2010, one of the nation's largest producers of eggs with farms nation-wide was the subject of a video that the U.S. Humane Society posted on its website. This video was said to have shocked customers and was devastating the company's sales. The company invited local media in to the Iowa farm to show the animal conditions and to try to reverse the negative public relations. However, this case encouraged Iowa lawmakers to pass a law making surreptitious and unapproved videos illegal.

Erin Huang, former Marion County deputy prosecutor and new state director of the Humane Society of the U. S. urged lawmakers not to pass the bill. Huang cited cases where undercover videos incited change, that in some instances would have been considered legal until public outcry forced change.

Examples included a 2009 slaughter plant investigation in Vermont that led to the plant closing and felony charges against a federal food safety inspector and a 2008 case in California that led to a historically large meat recall.

Lawmakers are saying that the bill may be changed to make exceptions for people who provide the video to government authorities and the media.

Bill 373 now moves to the Senate.

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