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‘Ag-Gag’ Bill Could Be Revived Next Year

Some lawmaker hope to revisit bill that would have made it a crime for activists to take photos at farms and publish them in an attempt to hurt the business.

Cows in stalls

Photo: Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

Cows lined up in stanchions at confined animal feeding operation (CAFO).

The “ag-gag” bill, which was originally intended to criminalize certain activist behaviors such as animal rights advocates taking photos at farms or slaughterhouses and publishing them in an attempt to hurt the business, could come up for debate again in the next legislative session.

The bill was killed in the waning hours of the 2013 legislative session.

Early in the session, negotiations between the House and Senate yielded a compromise that greatly expanded the concept and created constitutionality concerns.

While that version passed the Senate, House Speaker Brian Bosma halted its progress.  He says he wanted the Senate to agree to an earlier House version that he was more confident would survive a legal challenge.

But they did not, killing the bill.

Still, Bosma says the issue is one of the most important the legislature should study this summer.

“There’s clearly a need for protection from outside influences in regard to the ag industry,” he says. “The question is the best remedy and one that doesn’t run afoul of the First Amendment.”

Hoosier Environmental Council Senior Policy Director Tim Maloney says he is not sure that is possible.

“If that is their intent – to make it a very wide-ranging law that simply seeks to keep the public from knowing what’s going on at these operations – I’m not sure that can pass constitutional muster,” he says.

But Maloney says his organization is prepared to fight the battle over the issue again next session.

Brandon Smith

Brandon Smith has previously worked as a reporter and anchor for KBIA Radio in Columbia, MO, and at WSPY Radio in Plano, IL as a show host, reporter, producer and anchor. Brandon graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Bachelor of Journalism in 2010, with minors in political science and history. He was born and raised in Chicago.

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