Animal-rights activists tend to play by their own set of rules and often are willing to put themselves in harm’s way to support their cause. After all, it takes a certain amount of intestinal fortitude to get hired by a hog operation or turkey farm, then bring a hidden camera with you.
So we doubt that the threat of arrest on a gross misdemeanor charge would be much of a deterrent for a motivated member of PETA or the Humane Society.
But Sen. Doug Magnus, a Republican from Slayton, has introduced legislation that would criminalize the act of using video cameras to document cases of animal cruelty on any agricultural operation in the state.
Granted, we’re not talking about police officers. They aren’t employed by the taxpayers, and they aren’t sniffing out drug deals or trying to infiltrate organized crime. And animal-rights groups have been known to go far too far, cutting fences and releasing animals that then pose a threat to wildlife and public safety.
But there’s no denying that undercover videos have occasionally put a much-needed spotlight on bad employees and bad livestock operations.
Passage of this bill might not deter PETA, but it would strongly discourage farm employees from taking action when they see abuse. For anyone who defied the odds and cried foul, the inadmissibility of video evidence would turn each case into a “my word against yours” exercise in futility.
That’s not the direction Minnesota should go, because gone are the days when the majority of our meat came from family farms where the person who fed, sheltered, vaccinated and cleaned up after the animals also owned them and had a direct financial stake in their well-being.
Some of that oversight might come from a well-meaning colleague — or someone who got hired specifically to find out what’s going on behind closed doors.