Jim Norman's bill on banning videos on farms is back

SB 1184 would prevent people from taking videos or pictures of what goes on on a farm, undoubtedly a serious issue for ......whom, actually?

Well, the Florida Tribune reported earlier this year that at least one farmer in SD-12 supported the legislation:

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.

We know the critics of this legislation, because they came out in force against it earlier this year, such as Dan Matthews with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). He told a crowd at USF that farms and slaughterhouses need mandatory video surveillance. Without the footage, he said animal cruelty and employee turnover rates will skyrocket. "We've gone in there not to just obtain an image, but to obtain evidence."

Norman's original bill last year would have made it a first-degree felony to take photos or video of a farm or its animals without the property owner's consent. He later reduced it to a misdemeanor.
The bill died in committee.

Don Anthony with the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida said the fact the bill didn't go far in the legislature indicates that it has little support, and says it would have a chilling effect on the First Amendment.

"Think about the last 30 years of 60 Minutes," he said. "If they weren't allowed to use hidden cameras, all kinds of things that needed to be exposed would not be exposed."

Hillsborough/Pasco Republican state Senator Jim Norman is breathing a bit easier these days.

A federal investigation of his dealings with the late GOP power broker Ralph Hughes has concluded without any charges coming his way, and a preliminary drawing of his legislative district makes it more advantageous for his re-election bid in 2012.

So, now it's on to the business of the people in state Senate District 12, which for Norman means re-filing his bill from the last legislative session aimed at preventing animal rights groups from documenting the mistreatment of food-farm animals.

Don Anthony is with the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida. He says the bill is bad for the animals, bad for consumers, and bad for the people who work in such farms.

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