Florida State Politician Wants To Make Photographing Farms a Felony
SB 1246 by Sen. Jim Norman, R-Tampa, would make it a first-degree felony to photograph a farm without first obtaining written permission from the owner. A farm is defined as any land "cultivated for the purpose of agricultural production, the raising and breeding of domestic animals of the storage of a commodity...Wilton Simpson, a farmer who lives in Norman's district, said the bill is need to protect the property rights of farmers and the "intellectual property" involving farm operations.
Another felony-worthy image: psyberartist/Creative Commons.
This photo from Twyla Francois/Canadians for Ethical Treatment of Farm Animals/Creative Commons would also be a felony crime, even though existing trespassing laws would cover the act if the photographer snuck onto the property.
Norman's motivation for the law originates in the increasing negative publicity that factory farming practices have received after a number of undercover videos taken by people posing as farmworkers exposed animal abuse and generally horrific conditions.
Ultimately Tom Laskawy's reading of the situation in general is correct:
This is about the tendency in the food industry and, sadly, to believe that transparency and knowledge are the enemy of a functioning food system. People must not know how animals are slaughtered and processed. People must not know the nature and safety of all the chemicals involved in agricultural and food production and processing. People must not know if food is genetically modified. This belief now appears to undergird the very logic of the American industrial food system.
And points out, "It doesn't take a close reading of the Constitution to know you can't make photographing private property from a distance illegal." Which is mostly true, but there are exceptions made for military installations and other places on national security grounds.
But that wouldn't have been the case with undercover videos of factory farming, which obviously require a person to be on the property rather than just shooting from a public space, and makes the whole thing enter into some legal grey area. Though, I'm inclined to believe that existing laws on clandestine filming and photography, as well as trespassing, are sufficient to cover the matter.
Which is all to say that whether this bill proceeds very far or not--I certainly hope it doesn't--I wouldn't be so hasty to dismiss it as legally absurd with a wave of the hand.
Start your justifiable outrage now.