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SB 1246: Photographing Cows go to Jail

Photographing cows or other farm scenery could land you in jail under Senate bill

Florida Tribune
February 23, 2011

Taking photographs from the roadside of a sunrise over hay bales near the Suwannee River, horses grazing near Ocala or sunset over citrus groves along the Indian River could land you in jail under a Senate bill filed Monday.

SB 1246 by Sen. Jim Norman, R-Tampa, would make it a first-degree felony to photograph a farm without first obtaining written permission from the owner. A farm is defined as any land “cultivated for the purpose of agricultural production, the raising and breeding of domestic animals or the storage of a commodity.”

Media law experts say the ban would violate freedoms protected in the U. S. Constitution. But Wilton Simpson, a farmer who lives in Norman’s district, said the bill is needed to protect the property rights of farmers and the “intellectual property” involving farm operations.

Simpson, president of Simpson Farms near Dade City, said the law would prevent people from posing as farmworkers so that they can secretly film agricultural operations.

He said he could not name an instance in which that happened. But animal rights groups such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and Animal Freedom display undercover videos on their web sites to make their case that livestock farming and meat consumption are cruel.

Jeff Kerr, general counsel for PETA, said the state should be ashamed that such a bill would be introduced.

“Mr. Norman should be filing bills to throw the doors of animal producers wide open to show the public where their food comes from rather than criminalizing those who would show animal cruelty,” he said.

Simpson agreed the bill would make it illegal to photograph a farm from a roadside without written permission. Norman could not be reached for comment.

Judy Dalglish, executive director for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, said shooting property from a roadside or from the air is legal. The bill “is just flat-out unconstitutional not to mention stupid,” she said.

And she said there are laws already to prosecute trespassing onto property without permission. And if someone poses as a farm employee to shoot undercover video, they can be fired and possibly sued.

“Why pass a law you know will not stand constitutional muster?” Dalglish said.

Simpson said he doesn’t think that “innocent” roadside photography would be prosecuted even if the bill is passed as introduced.

“Farmers are a common-sense people,” he said. “A tourist who stops and takes a picture of cows — I would not imagine any farmer in the state of Florida that cares about that at all.”

 

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1 Comment so far
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Hi:

Thanks to good efforts by you and others this bill has been defeated and removed from future consideration.

Thank you

Comment by Jerome Judge




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