Wednesday, March 20, 2013

CCA officials defend cruelty bill

There's been some media attention recently to a bill in the Legislature that would require people taking photos or video footage of animal cruelty at agricultural facilities to share the information promptly with law enforcement.

Assembly Bill 343 by Assemblyman Jim Patterson, R-Fresno, is coauthored by the north state's Assemblyman Brian Dahle and Sen. Jim Nielsen, who are both farmers.

The California Cattlemen's Association is backing the bill. Here is a statement from Justin Oldfield, the CCA's vice president of government relations, and Margo Parks, director of government relations. The emphasis is theirs.
The California Cattlemen’s Association is proud to sponsor AB 343 authored by Assemblymember Jim Patterson. AB 343 demonstrates the ongoing commitment made by farmers and ranchers to provide the highest level of treatment for the animals in their care and further highlights their recognition that the humane treatment of farm animals is not just a job but an obligation. This bill strikes an important balance between allowing time for a witness to document evidence of animal abuse and provide that information to law enforcement to prevent further harm to animals or food safety.

AB 343 seeks to require an individual who is knowingly taping or photographing farm animal cruelty to provide that evidence to local law enforcement within 48 hours. We strongly encourage that this information be shared with the livestock owner as well however it is not mandated. AB 343 will ensure that corrective actions are taken immediately, preventing additional suffering that might otherwise have occurred.

California’s livestock producers have no tolerance for animal cruelty and have been some of the first to publicly condemn the actions of individuals committing farm animal abuse. In some situations, individuals abusing livestock have been documented on video for sometimes weeks on end without having been reported to the proper authorities. Any video or photographic evidence should be used to take immediate corrective actions. There is no reason why animal cruelty should be concealed for any amount of time after it has been witnessed and documented.

In 2008, a video was released depicting despicable acts of cruelty by employees at a livestock harvesting facility in Chino. This footage was compiled over a six week period in the fall of 2007 and released the footage to the media in January of 2008. If this footage had been turned over to management and law enforcement immediately, corrective actions would have instantly occurred, preventing the suffering of additional cattle.

AB 343 also protects employees and does nothing to infringe on the rights of “whistle blowers” already protected under California law. AB 343 does not criminalize or forbid further videos from being taken, nor does it require the confiscation of any videos or photographs; the bill simply requires those videos to be used to help end any further abuse. The adoption of this bill does not, in any way, enable a business to terminate an employee based on compliance with the mandatory reporting provisions established under AB 343. In doing so, a business would be committing in violation of Labor Code Section 1102.5.

AB 343 dramatically improves animal welfare and will more expeditiously hold those responsible for farm animal abuse accountable. We hope you can join us in supporting AB 343. If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Look for my story on the bill at soon. It'll be fair and balanced, as they say on Fox News.

Whatever the merits or faults of this particular bill, it strikes me that a lot of these folks who write such knee-jerk articles and editorials based on pithy sound bites from groups such as the Humane Society of the United States probably wouldn't know what BQA was if it hit them in the face. These same individuals who so cavalierly impugn the motives of cattlemen are nowhere to be found at producer workshops like the one I covered in November at Shasta College, where food safety and animal health were the key topics of discussion.

And make no mistake -- the HSUS' strategy is to use willing editorial boards in rural areas to fight this bill. I just got off the phone with Paul Shapiro, the group's spokesman, who seemed to mention "normally ag-friendly editorial boards" in every other sentence. I would hope that said editorial boards would keep this in mind as they do the Humane Society's bidding.

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