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Bill Could Impede Farm and Factory Whistleblowers

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Photo: Edmund Yeo (flickr)

The proposal's author says his bill does not prevent people from reporting wrongdoing.

Activists taking videos or photos of potentially illegal or embarrassing practices at farms and factories could be subject to new criminal penalties under legislation approved by the Senate.

The measure authored by Markle Republican Senator Travis Holdman makes it a crime for anyone to videotape or photograph agricultural or industrial operations and share those photos with the public in an attempt to harm or defame the business.

Opponents say efforts the bill is trying to outlaw have led to significant changes at animal farms in states like California and Ohio.

Environmental groups say the public relies on that kind of whistleblower activity, but Holdman says his bill does not prevent people from reporting wrongdoing.

“Anybody is excluded that does this as long as they turn over the videotape or the photograph to law enforcement or a regulatory agency that would have oversight of that operation within 48 hours,” he says.

But Hoosier Environmental Council policy director Kim Ferraro says if the activity being videotaped or photographed is is not yet illegal, law enforcement can’t help, and turning to regulatory agencies is not always the answer.

“Whether it be due to lack of political will or lack of resources, they are often times complicit in the activity, know about it and are simply looking the other way,” she says.

Ferraro says there are other penalties – including trespassing – that can prevent people with bad intent from encroaching on farms and factories without punishing whistleblowers.

Want to contact your legislators about an issue that matters to you? Find out how to contact your senators and member of Congress here.

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