Anti-animal legislation in Iowa, Florida, Virginia

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 2011:
RICHMOND–Stealth bills to rescind or handicap
animal protection flew through the Iowa and
Virginia legislatures in early 2011 and appeared
to be close to passage in Florida too as the
April 2011 edition of ANIMAL PEOPLE went to press.
Iowa governor Terry Branstad on March 24,
2011 signed into law a bill rescinding the state
prohibition on hunting mourning doves, which had
stood since 1918. Branstad had sought to open an
Iowa mourning dove hunting season since 1973,
during his first term in the Iowa legislature.

Iowa state senate natural resources and
environment committee chair Dick Dearden of Des
Moines introduced the bill to hunt mourning doves
on the last possible day of the Iowa legislative
session. “He apparently rushed it through
without even consulting some fellow committee
members,” noted Humane Society Legislative Fund
president Mike Markarian.
Approved by the state senate on March 22,
the dove hunting bill “was sent to the House the
very next day without any committee consideration
or serious vetting of the issues,” Markarian
continued. “An unrelated bill on raccoon hunting
was stripped completely and the mourning dove
language was substituted in its place. The House
approved the bill on March 23 by a vote of 58-39.”
“The whole idea was to get it through the
Senate and to get it through the House as quickly
as possible so the public could not weigh in,”
Iowa City house member Mary Mascher told the Des
Moines Register. Mascher and Dubuque house
member Charles Isenhart sought unsuccessfully to
amend the bill to prohibit hunting doves over
baited fields and shooting them with toxic lead
The dove hunting bill became law while
Iowa house bill 589 remained pending. This bill
would create penalties of up to five years in
prison plus fines of up to $7,500 for anyone who
acts “without the consent of the owner of an
animal facility to willfullyŠproduce a record
which reproduces an image or sound occurring at
the animal facility,” or distributes such a
record. Introduced by rancher Annette Sweeney,
the bill cleared the Iowa house, 65-27, and was
unanimously approved by the Iowa senate
agriculture committee. The bill targets
undercover video investigations such as one
conducted by two PETA operatives at a pig farm
near Bayard, Iowa, in 2008. Six workers were
eventually charged with either livestock abuse or
cruelty to animals.
“Two were given two-year suspended prison
terms. The others received probation or deferred
judgments,” recalled Jennifer Jacobs of the Des
Moines Register.
Florida state senator Jim Norman
introduced a similar bill, SB 1246, on February
21, 2011.
“The Florida Senate Committee on
Agriculture approved the bill,” reported Alicia
Calzada of the National Press Photographers
Association on March 21, but before they did
they passed two amendments to the language of the
bill. The first amendment changes the language
of the bill so that it only applies to
trespassers who enter the property, and exempts
law enforcement and agents of the Department of
Agriculture. The second amendment changes the
crime from a felony to a misdemeanor. While we
still don’t like any law that targets
photography, these amendments have addressed our
primary concerns,” Calzada said.
Opposition to both the Iowa and Florida
anti-undercover videography bills has been led by
journalists and civil libertarians. Reporters
Committee for Freedom of the Press executive
director Judy Dalglish called them both, “Just
flat-out unconstitutional not to mention stupid.”
Drake University law professor Ian Bartrum
pointed out to Jacobs of the Des Moines Register
that the U.S. Supreme Court in April 2010
recognized undercover videography meant to expose
cruelty as a protected category of free speech
when it struck down law that banned the
distribution of so-called “crush videos.”
Humane Farming Association founder Brad
Milller denounced the legislation as “The epitome
of special interest legislation on steroids. The
public has a right to know how its food is being
produced. The industry is concerned about being
held accountable. We don’t believe that they
deserve special protections.”
Virginia HB 1541, passed by both houses
of the state legislature and awaiting signature
by Governor Bob McDonnell as ANIMAL PEOPLE went
to press, “Provides standards of care
specifically for agricultural animals that ensure
accommodation for customary farming activities,”
according to the official bill summary, but the
care standards are merely that, “An owner of an
agricultural animal is required to provide feed
to prevent malnourishment, water to prevent
dehydration and veterinary treatment as needed to
address impairment of health or bodily function
when such impairment cannot be otherwise
addressed through animal husbandry.”
In addition, “The bill also clarifies
certain procedures for the seizure and
impoundment of agricultural animals,” by
inhibiting transfer of impounded animals to
rescue organizations and encouraging that they be
auctioned instead.
In effect, HB 1541 exempts farmed
animals from the Virginia anti-cruelty statute.
Charged United Poultry Concerns founder
Karen Davis, of Machiapongo, Virginia,
“Farming interests will be free to starve and
otherwise mistreat, neglect and abandon their
animals as revealed in recent cases of horrific
cruelty to pigs by Smithfield Foods in Waverly,
Virginia and to thousands of “organic” egg-laying
hens by Black Eagle Farm in Nelson County,
Virginia, whose management starved the hens in
its care repeatedly in 2009 before sending them
to slaughter.”

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