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Idaho governor signs Ag Gag bill: Now illegal to investigate farm animal cruelty

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In Boise, Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter signed into law Senate Bill 1337 on Friday; now making it illegal to do any undercover investigations at any of Idaho's factory farms reports ABC News.

The controversial bill will now make it illegal to film inside of facilities or photograph any abusive activity involving farm animals including and not limited to the unsanitary handling of food products as well as environmental violations.

Idaho introduced the legislation after Mercy for Animals, an advocacy organization which has successfully investigated a number of egregious cruelty violations to farm animals and the mishandling of food on farms throughout the United States, conducted an undercover investigation on the Idaho dairy farm, Bettencourt Dairies.

A cruel and heartbreaking video showed workers beating cows, kicking them in the face, and dragging sick animals across concrete floors with chains around their necks. The video was turned over to law enforcement where criminal charges were brought against three of the workers. One worker has since pleaded guilty to animal cruelty.

Nathan Runkle, executive director of Mercy for Animals stated:

"Governor Otter has failed Idaho and the American people. By signing this bill into law, he has sided with those who seek to keep Idaho's corrupt factory farming practices hidden from public view and created a safe haven for animal abuse and other criminal activity in the state. Mercy For Animals is exploring all legal avenues to overturn this dangerous, unconstitutional, and un-American law."

"Not only will this ag-gag law perpetuate animal abuse, it endangers workers' rights, consumer health and safety, and the freedom of journalists, employees, and the public at large to share information about something as fundamental as our food supply. This law is bad for consumers, who want more, not less, transparency in food production."

Senator Jim Patrick, one of the bill's sponsors, said the legislation was necessary because the dairy farm's owner, Luis Bettencourt received death threats after the investigation of his farm, and this created fear in all Idaho farmers.

Runkle stated the governor gave in to "corporate factory farming interests."

In 2013, none of the 11 states who tried to pass Ag Gag bills were successful. This year, Arizona, New Hampshire, and Indiana have shown interest in similar bills.

Utah and Iowa have passed Ag Gag legislation.

Mercy for Animals continues to expose the atrocities of factory farming. Their 2012 investigation at Butterball farms, a turkey producer in North Carolina, revealed shocking abuse and neglect leading to five workers charged with criminal animal cruelty.

In 2013, the organization videotaped the gruesome and brutal treatment of dairy cows in Wisconsin; that farm supplying milk products for DiGiorno's pizza. The undercover investigation uncovered egregious animal cruelty and filthy unhealthy conditions at the farm.

"Consumers have a right to know how their food is produced and how animals on factory farms are abused so they can make informed choices. But now, due to this misguided law, consumers would be wise to assume that food produced on Idaho farms is the product of systematic cruelty and corruption," stated Runkle.

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