Thursday, April 18, 2013

Abuse-video bill put on hold

The California Cattlemen's Association and authors of a bill that would regulate animal-abuse videos or photos taken at livestock facilities have put the legislation on hold while they fine-tune some of the details.

From the CCA:
After months of working on a bill that would require evidence of animal abuse to be shared with law enforcement, the California Cattlemen’s Association has chosen to push the pause button instead of the stop button on the AB 343 in order to allow more in-depth discussion on the issue.

“Animal welfare has always been and remains a top priority for beef cattle producers across the state of California,” said CCA President Tim Koopmann upon the decision to hold the bill in committee. “We appreciate Assemblymember Patterson’s willingness to push this bill forward despite opposition. We feel opposition to the bill will prevent it from moving forward at this time and as such have requested Patterson hold the bill. We look forward to continuing with him on this important legislation.”

AB 343 would mandate that anyone outside the media who intentionally documents farm animal abuse share a copy of the evidence with law enforcement within 120 hours. In addition to providing a fair timeline for reporting the abuse, the bill upholds current whistleblower laws to ensure no retaliation can take place against those reporting abuse.

“Without alerting authorities to instances of abuse, those responsible for abuse can’t be held accountable. That is what this bill aims to fix,” Koopmann said.

CCA has worked with multiple groups, including journalist organizations, to make amendments to the legislation in effort to garner support. Several groups have dropped their opposition to the bill as a result.
Speaking of media, apparently some have erroneously (or deliberately) reported that the bill is dead, which I've been assured it is not.

But carving out an exemption for "the media" raises an interesting question: Just who would be exempt? Nowadays anyone with a smart phone and a Twitter account could be considered a journalist. So could the Capital Press withhold abuse photos while feedlot employee Steve Smith, who just happens to have a Facebook page, couldn't? What would stop an animal activist from saying, "Hey, I'm just doing this for my online newspaper, the Green Gazette"? And when did we start allowing journalists to be above the law just because some of them have abandoned any sense of objectivity, assuming they ever had it to begin with?

More details are sure to come, and you can watch for them at CapitalPress.com.

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