Several recent news items have brought new attention to farm-protection legislation known as “ag-gag” laws, adopted in several states to protect farmers and ranchers from clandestine activities of animal-rights activists.
In Idaho last week, the state’s Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter signed a bill imposing fines and potential jail time for people recording unauthorized videos at agricultural facilities.
The bill was proposed in response to a 2012 incident in which the animal-rights group Mercy for Animals released video footage showing employees at an Idaho dairy abusing cows.
Quoted in an Associated Press article, Otter, who is a rancher, said the measure "is about agriculture producers being secure in their property and their livelihood."
In Colorado meanwhile, one of the defendants in an abuse case stemming from a similar video pleaded guilty to animal cruelty. According to news reports, 34-year-old Ernesto Daniel Valenzuela-Alvarez, who worked at the Quanah Cattle Co. near Kersey, entered his plea Friday and is scheduled to be sentenced April 29. Two other employees of the dairy face similar charges in the case.
In this case, an activist with the animal-rights group “Compassion over Killing” recorded video footage of abuse incidents while working as a temporary employee at the dairy.
This case is the first in which the activist was charged with a crime for not reporting the abuse in a timely manner. In several of these incidents, animal-rights groups have delayed release of their videos until well after the abuse occurs, in order to collect more evidence and create a greater impact on public opinions. The “ag-gag’ laws typically include provisions requiring immediate reporting of abuse to farm management and/or law enforcement.
The activist in this case, Taylor Radig, taped the videos between July and September but did not turn them over to authorities until November, after she had left her job at the dairy. Initially, Weld County investigators charged Radig with being complicit in the abuse based on her delay in reporting it. The District Attorney’s Office however has since dismissed the charges believing they could not prove them beyond a reasonable doubt.