Florida Senate Bill 1246, proposed by Sen. Jim Norman of Tampa, attempts to make photographing or filming farming operations without the consent of the owners a misdemeanor.
Animal rights groups have spoken out against the measure, as illustrated by the lecture given by Senior Vice President of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) Dan Mathews to an audience in the Marshall Student Center’s Oval Theater on Tuesday that defended the practice, which PETA regularly utilizes.
“What they’re afraid of is that PETA and others will document routine violations of state and federal animal cruelty laws, as we have all around the country,” Mathews said.
The bill is correct in ensuring that farms receive the same protections as any other privately owned properties; however, the same effect could be achieved by simply ensuring that private property laws are properly enforced.
Regardless of the legality or implications of the bill, PETA’s actions – filming farms to see what they can find – should be made illegal.
Though it’s noble to assist in uncovering legal violations, these vigilantes’ raids may also record farming operations that don’t violate laws, potentially furthering ideological agendas at the farmers’ expense.
If activists are concerned that crimes are taking place, they should lobby for efforts to hold law enforcement agencies more accountable for catching violators, not act on their own by going undercover to gain video access to slaughterhouses.
Meat products for fried chicken and meatloaf don’t appear in stores magically; a living animal had to be killed, dismembered, skinned and deboned.
Even if it doesn’t violate state and federal laws, this large-scale process could understandably be seen as gruesome to anyone not used to it, which is what makes it such great fodder for propaganda from animal rights groups who may be opposed to human use of animals for any reason.
Just the title of the film shown by PETA in Tuesday’s event, “If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be a vegetarian,” arguably suggests that if one were to see the process of animals being slaughtered they’d stop eating meat, not just if there was a violation – though the film did show some.
Slaughtering and processing animals is not a trade for weak stomachs, much like being a surgeon, soldier or any job that may involve gruesome work most people would never see.
That’s why it’s understandable that farmers should be offered protections from people who think they have the right to force owners in an industry they don’t like to cooperate in the bashing of their trade.
It’s unlikely that opponents of Norman’s bill think it would be OK for any member of the general public to videotape inside their private homes or offices because the practice previously caught acts of physical abuse against animals in similar places, especially if the recordings could be used to damage them regardless.
There are criminals and criminal violations in every trade throughout the U.S., not just meat factories.
But law abiding meat processors and farmers are being singled out and unfairly targeted for work that many in the U.S. don’t have the stomach to do because it’s counter to a very vocal minority’s views.
There’s nothing wrong with working to counteract ideologically driven vigilantism that’s targeting a specific industry, even one supplying America’s massive demand for convenient, neatly packaged meat products.