The Missouri House of Representatives gave initial approval to a measure that cracks down on anyone trying to secretly film a livestock facility in the state.
The bill, which is sponsored by Republican Casey Guernsey, would make it a crime for a person to lie on a job application or use false pretences to gain access to an agriculture production facility, such as a cattle feed lot or a hog or chicken building.
“I don’t think there’s enough we can do to protect an industry that drives the economy in this state,” Guernsey said.
The measure creates two new crimes called agriculture production facility fraud and agriculture production facility interference, which carry penalties ranging from up to six months in jail to four years in prison.
Iowa in February passed a similar bill, which was prompted by a series of videos secretly filmed by animal rights activists that exposed alleged abuse by employees at livestock operations.
Guernsey, however, said he has not heard of any similar incidents taking place in Missouri.
Opponents of the measure called it an overreaction by farm groups and said it will protect bad actors within the agriculture industry at the expense of consumers.
Guernsey and other lawmakers argued that there was nothing in the bill that would prevent employees or other whistle-blowers from exposing abuse.
The House must vote on the bill one more time before it heads to the Senate.
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