(AP) — A bill that would make it a crime to take photographs or shoot
footage without permission inside Indiana farms and businesses has
advanced in the Legislature, pitting property rights supporters against
animal welfare activists.
The bill was
approved on a 7-2 vote Tuesday by a Senate panel and now heads to the full
state Sen. Travis Holdman of Markle said his bill targets what he calls
"vigilantes" who enter private property with the sole intent of obtaining
undercover photos or videos. He told The Journal Gazette that many of
those people are animal welfare activists seeking evidence of possible
"We don't need
vigilantes out entering people's private property, industrial operation,
factory or farm, doing things surreptitiously . . . for no other reason
than to annoy and harass," Holdman said.
he filed the bill after hearing from a farmer in his district who said
someone making a delivery took video with his phone and could not provide
a reasonable explanation, the Indianapolis Star reported. Holdman said
nothing happened to that farmer.
spokesman for Indiana-based Rose Acre Farms — one of the nation's largest
egg producers — described a potential public-relations headache the
company faced in 2010 involving undercover video.
general counsel, Joe Miller, said the Humane Society of the United States
posted on a video on its website that shocked customers. That video,
released at an Iowa news conference, was taken by someone who had gotten a
job at two Iowa farms, one owned by Rose Acre and the second by another
members of the Senate Committee on Corrections and Criminal Law that soon
after the video was made public, 50 customers called to say "they wanted
to stop buying our eggs."
have devastated our business," he said.
Ed Robert, of
the Indiana Manufacturers Association, said photos and videos obtained at
businesses are often posted online and sometimes harm the businesses in
are trespassers," he said. "They are doing something they are not supposed
to be doing."
director for the Humane Society of the United States, Erin Huang, told the
panel that taking away whistleblower protections related to the country's
food supply is dangerous. She said undercover photos and videos have led
to animal abuse prosecutions in some states.
former Marion County deputy prosecutor who handled animal cruelty cases,
also said a number of criminal charges could apply in cases of undercover
photos or videos, such as trespassing or fraud. Businesses and farms also
have civil remedies through libel or defamation lawsuits, she said.
Young, R-Indianapolis, said he is uncertain about the bill and wants to
see if an amendment can limit its scope.
under the measure it would not be illegal to take the photos or video if
the evidence of illegality is turned over to a government oversight
agency, law enforcement or possibly the media. However, that material
still could not be posted or distributed publicly.
remain that journalists might not be able to conduct undercover
investigations without running afoul of the law.
Stoops, D-Bloomington, said the bill reminded him of a trip he made to
Communist-era Romania where he wasn't allowed to take photos.
the law a little more messy. We already have laws to deal with this issue.
We don't need another one," he said.