By Danielle Diamond and Karen Hudson
Illinois Citizens for Clean Air & Water Newsletter
Illinois legislators should be commended for tabling H.B. 5143, which would have made it illegal to photograph or document conditions at local or industry farms. Legislators recognized the harmful impacts this “ag-gag” bill would have had on the public’s health, safety and right to know.
H.B. 5143 was introduced by Illinois Rep. Jim Sacia (R-89), Pecatonica/Freeport. He has stated he will continue to be an advocate for the bill.
This bill was an industry-endorsed attempt to stifle perfectly legal actions that document illegal actions at factory farms. Some verbiage within the bill states that a person commits animal facility interference when he or she, without the consent of the owner, knowingly: possesses or distributes a record that reproduces by a photographic, audio or similar medium an image or sound of a visual or audio experience occurring at the animal facility. In other words, “whistleblowing” or undercover investigations would become criminal acts.
The bill proposed that any person who committed animal facility interference would be guilty of a Class A misdemeanor for a first offense and a Class 4 felony for a second or subsequent offense.
Factory farm supporters claim they have a clean slate but know their egregious growing practices and pollution events can be consistently revealed in photographs that lead to investigations and/or fines. If they have nothing to be ashamed of, why all the cover up; why propose the bill?
Links to other states regarding ag-gag bills:
It’s a map of states where similar bills like Sacia’s in Illinois are being proposed:
Go to the following link for the latest on Chicago Tribune writer Monica Eng’s column “The Stew.” Our message about the ag-gag bill is clearly stated here — another threat to public health in Illinois if we cannot record pollution events.
“Food Policy: CAFO protection bill gets hearing in Illinois,” www.chicagotribune.com Features › The Stew
The bill was to go before the Illinois House Judiciary Committee this Wednesday before it was tabled by the leadership and Sacia.
Why H.B. 5143 was a bad bill
1. Documentation is routinely utilized by citizens to record illegal and pollution events.
2. Documentation “tells the story” of agricultural practices. This “real side” reveals abuses producers want to hide at abusive facilities. This information will help promote socially responsible agriculture.
3. Illinois EPA cannot be everywhere at once. Citizens in our state shoulder the burden of policing intensive animal feeding operations on a daily basis.
4. Documentations of alleged violations on intensive animal feeding operations and on manure application sites are forwarded to many Illinois agencies and assist in the enforcement of warnings and penalties.
5. Documentations help to create increased public health awareness of intensive animal feeding operations and the safety and the quality of the food that they produce. This results in consumer protection and food safety initiatives.
6. The routine use of antibiotics to promote growth of diseased or healthy animals promotes antibiotic resistance in the human population. Documentation continues to educate the public about conditions behind closed doors that affect public health.
Editor & Publisher Frank Schier contributed to this column.
From the March 14-20, 2012, issue