Animals

 

Florida law would make it a felony to photograph factory farms and puppy mills, even if not trespassing

Jeff Nelson, Founder VegSource.com | 03/09/11

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Read More: factory farm, felony, florida, law, photograph

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About ten years ago while driving from Los Angeles to San Francisco along Interstate 5, we stopped and took some photographs of the Harris Ranch, a huge feedlot operation which provides a lot of meat for California fast food outlets.

We were on a public street, and pulled over and took several shots. (Link at end of article below to original story and photos.) 

While taking the shots, a small dark sedan pulled up behind our van and parked.  The man in the vehicle didn't get out, just watched us (see photo below of black car behind us).

A few days later, I received a phone message from a detective in the Fresno County Sheriff's Office, wishing to speak with me.  I called him back, and "Special Detective Asselin" told me Harris Ranch had reported my license plate and said I had been engaged in "suspicious activity," and he said that on viewing my website, he noticed I was somehow associated with an organization called Earthsave.

After questioning me about Vegsource, Earthsave and why I was taking photographs of what must be the single largest taxpayer in Fresno County (i.e. someone the Fresno County Sheriff's office obviously feels it must keep happy), I guess Detective Asselin was satisfied that I wasn't planning to try to blow something up.

vegvan.jpgThat was the old days...the cops looking out for big corporate farms, harassing people who took photos of the operation.

Today in Florda they're taking it a step further.

A new law SB1246 has been introduced which will make it a felony to do what I did, to simply be on a public street and take a photo of a factory farm or puppy mill, unless you have written permission of the corporation whose farm you snap.

That's right, if Republican state Senator Jim Norman of Florida has his way, it will be a felony to photograph from public property or even set foot onto a factory farm -- and not just any felony, but a first-degree felony, which carries a mandatory minimum of 25 years in prison.

First-degree felonies in Florida include drug trafficking, child molestation, rape, murder -- and soon, photography.

And again, the law also makes it a first-degree felony if you simply trespass on a factory farm or puppy mill, without written consent.

2cows.jpgHere is what the law states, as proposed by Florida Republican Senator Norman:

(1) A person who enters onto a farm or other property where legitimate agriculture operations are being conducted without the written consent of the owner, or an authorized representative of the owner, commits a felony of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084, Florida Statutes.

(2) A person who photographs, video records, or otherwise produces images or pictorial records, digital or otherwise, at or of a farm or other property where legitimate agriculture operations are being conducted without the written consent of the owner, or an authorized representative of the owner, commits a felony of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084, Florida Statutes.

(3) As used in this section, the term “farm” includes any tract of land cultivated for the purpose of agricultural production, the raising and breeding of domestic animals, or the storage of a commodity.

Note that subsection 2 is independent of subsection 1 — photographing farms would be made a felony even if the photographer isn’t trespassing (for instance, because he’s on a public road, or lawfully on neighboring property). And not just any felony — a first-degree felony, which is the highest degree felony other than capital crimes and “life felonies” (which carry a mandatory minimum of 25 years in prison). The precise term of imprisonment would be dictated by the Florida Sentencing Guidelines, but the maximum would be 30 years.

Plus subsection 1 has problems of its own. First, it makes simple trespasses into serious felonies. Second, it covers even behavior that isn’t trespassing, because it covers visits that are based on oral permission (e.g., going to a party at somebody’s farm), and visits that would generally be seen as implicitly permitted or otherwise nontrespassory (e.g., stopping at someone’s farm to ask for directions, or to sell Girl Scout cookies).  And as stated, this law protects puppy mills from being photographed in any way as well, as it prohibits photography of "farms" involved in "the raising or breeding of domestic animals."

As one of our readers expressed: so the law allows you to protest in ugly and profane ways at the funeral of a fallen US soldier, but you go to jail for 30 years if you photograph a cow from a public street? Yes, the highway still belongs to the people -- for now. (Republicans are undoubtedly working to privatize that, as well.)

It would seem this should be a First Amendment issue which Florida would have a hard time making stick, though some people could spend a long time in jail while a group like the ACLU worked to have such a law overturned.

Still, you look at the number of freedoms taken away by the Patriot Act and Homeland Security, and it's not such an illogical next step.

Here is a link to the original story from 10 years ago, when we were investigated and interrogated simply for simply snapping some shots of a factory farm from the side of a public road:  A "Tail" of Harris Ranch with photos



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11 Comments | Leave a comment

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I emailed Senator Kucinich as below:

SB1246
http://www.vegsource.com/news/2011/03/florida-law-would-make-it-a-felony-to-photograph-factory-farms-even-if-not-trespassing.html

I know they're running very scared (first they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win) and so the winning is just around the corner - but in the meantime, what do we do?

I just don't know what to do about this and I do not want to stand by while more of our rights are eroded by the extremist right wing and their billionaire backers. I hoped that if anyone would know, you would. Help!!

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I guess it's a good thing I took our photos from the car! As expatriates, I don't know how much leeway we'd have been extended.

Shown in http://www.vegsource.com/jess-parsons/oprah-going-vegan.html

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Here in Britain, in direct contravention of existing laws, and advice to police forces, photographers have been increasingly treated like terrorists for a couple of years now, and the situation is worsening as this magazine article shows.

http://www.amateurphotographer.co.uk/news/photographers_warned_no_letup_in_terror_stops_update_news_275392.html

It seems British police are unable to grasp the fact that terrorists on a reconnaissance mission are hardly likely to be standing in full view with a digital SLR and all the rest of an amateur photographers' kit. More likely, in fact, to be sneaking around with a mobile phone camera!

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We should get hundreds or thousands of people to show up at one factory farm at the same time and all take a photo...there's power in numbers

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SB1246,

I am glad that you contacted Senator Kucinich. I would have contacted Rep Ron Paul if I was going to contact a "public servant".

My opinion is that is doesn't make a difference if the officials are Democrats or Republicans...both parties have been bought (including the local police) by the highest bidder.

I would like to see the above two public servants unite under a third party and run for US President and Vice-President as a team. I believe the disenchanted citizens would overwhelmingly vote them in. They would make a good team on behalf of the people, not the bankers or special interest groups.

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To say there's no difference between Democrats and Republicans is way inaccurate. The GOP is much more in the pocket of the big corporations and on the side of the rich vs. the middle class, in the current class war.

But I do agree that the Dems are bought and sold in areas as well, such as the banking industry. They aren't as corrupt as the GOP, but many are corrupt and should be tossed out of there.

But what do you expect when you have a system where bribery is legal through fundraising, and the GOP will never agree to reform campaign finance laws (because they would cease to exist if that happened).

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JayWalk, yes, I agree. Frankly, they're all whores- selling themselves to the highest bidder.

FYI SB1246 is the number of the Senate bill.

Let's hope the tipping point is soon!

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Here we are in the great America. The land that preaches and dictates to every other country on exactly HOW to live democracy. And the freedom to photograph or stop and view a factory farm from the road will now become punishable in the same way as murder? Why doesn't state Senator of FL Jim Norman move to Somalia where he can hate government, justice and true democracy as much as possible? He could even take up arms with the pirates and plunder the rich democrats as they sail by. But the biggest blunder Mr. Norman is making, is demonstrating publicly, to one and all, that he is NOT pro-life at all. He is just another hypocrite.

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We shake our heads in disbelief and then stand by and let it happen . . . apathy erodes truth and freedom.

Re-post this article on Facebook and on your websites and blogs. People need to understand that this isn't just happening to animal rights activists. If we allow freedoms to disintegrate in one area there is nothing to protect our right to freedom in other areas as well.

The animals have no voice. We are their voice. Stand up for your beliefs. Stand up for your right to protect the most vulnerable, the downtrodden, the abused. Write letters to your representatives letting them know that you will not tolerate being treated as a terrorist.

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Insane.

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I understand that it's illegal to take pictures of military objects, but farms? This is getting insane

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