Trying to corral stampeding criticism, the Senate on Tuesday amended a bill that would once would have made it illegal to take photos of farm animals and operations without permission.
"This [now] doesn't include people who are going to a farm on a field trip" and take photos, said Sen. Dave Hinkins, R-Orangeville, about his amendments to HB187. "This is about people who gain access under false pretences. That's what this is all about."
He said it now more clearly targets groups such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals who apply to work under false pretences with the intent of filming operations secretly. With the amendments, the Senate voted 19-7 to give the bill preliminary approval and send it to a final Senate vote.
That comes after groups such as PETA, the Utah Humane Society and the National Press Photographers Association had attacked the bill, and said it could thwart efforts to catch animal abusers.
Under questioning, Hinkins said legitimate workers at farms who raise concerns or even take pictures of wrongdoing would be protected by whistleblower laws, and not violate the bill. He said he is trying to stop groups that he says lie to gain access and alter videos to attack the ranching industry.
"The farmers and the slaughter houses, yes, they do actually raise animals to eat. Every time you go to McDonald's, that's what hamburgers are: a dead cow. I hate to break the news, but we're getting a bad rap for this. And it's vegetarian people who are trying to kill the animal industry," said Hinkins, a rancher.
He added that he views his bill as essentially stopping trespassing. "This is a property rights issue," he said.