Legislation targeting activists and undercover journalists has passed one round at the Senate. The law would make it a crime to take undercover recordings on farms without the owners approval. While some are causing it an overreaction, those within the industry believe it’s necessary to “stop activists.”
Over the past several years we’ve seen more cases of activists posing as workers to gain access to livestock and other agricultural operations, only to record conditions and use them against the owners of the operations.
These videos have uncovered deplorable conditions, including situations where animals were being severely mistreated. But, agricultural facility owners are not happy with what they see as an attack on their profession.
Representative Casey Guernsey (R-Bethany) said to Business Week, “Unfortunately, we live in a society where these activists are becoming more and more of a problem to agriculture. We cannot afford to allow these groups to target our industry of agriculture in Missouri like they have in Iowa.”
Iowa passed a similar law last month after the group Mercy for Animals released footage of chicken and hog farms in that state.
The legislation still has another round in the House before moving forward to the Senate, where it could be blocked.
Democrats in both chambers seem to be opposed to the law, saying it is an overreaction.
Representative Tracy McCreery (I-St. Louis) called the bill, “an attempt to silence advocates or others who might shine a light on unhealthy practice.”
If passed, a violation of the law would be considered a misdemeanor carrying up to 1 year in jail and $1,000 in fines. Misrepresenting oneself to gain entry into an agricultural facility, called “agricultural production facility fraud,” would also be classified as a misdemeanor but would carry a maximum penalty of up to 6 months in jail and $500 in fines for a first offense, or 1 year in jail and $1,000 in fines for a second offense.
The legislation would also increase penalties for first degree trespassing and false impersonation. Those would similarly carry 6 months in jail and $500 in fines for a first offense or 1 year in jail and $1,000 in fines for a subsequent offense.
The likelihood of this legislation passing is questionable. The chances that many people will be prosecuted under it is also questionable.
Trespassing, on the other hand, is a fairly common offense. It can be applied in a variety of circumstances and is often levied when someone simply refuses to leave premises after being asked.
If you find yourself charged with trespassing or any other Missouri criminal offense, contact our offices to discuss your case and what can be done.