On Friday the Utah House of Representatives voted 60-14 in favor of HB187 and sent it to the senate.
The bill sponsored by Rep. John Mathis, R-Vernal, who happens to be a vet, would make it a Class A misdemeanor to videotape or photograph farm operations without permission.
The bill is intended to stop groups such as PETA from taking videos alleging animal abuse. They don’t want to have people tresspassing on property to take the photos or video.
Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Millcreek opposes the bill because of the language used. Technically it would be illegal for schoolchildren on a field trip to take pictures of farms or animals without permission.
I too have problem with the language of the bill. It says “A person is guilty of agricultural operation interference if the person knowingly or intentionally records an image of, or sound from, an agricultural operation while the person is lawfully present on the agricultural operation, after receiving notice from the owner of the agricultural operation or the owner’s agent that the person is prohibited from recording an image of, or sound from, the agricultural operation.”
The problem is that it doesn’t define “agricultural operation” as private property. Here in Utah grazing rights are sold to have animals in the National Forest. The wording of this bill means that it would be illegal for people to take pictures of animals on public land, for example Logan Canyon, if the owner, or agent of the animal asks you to stop.
A photographer friend of mine pointed out that the wording on the bill makes it so the notice from the owner doesn’t have to be verbal. A simple sign posted at the mouth of Logan Canyon would constitute notice and make it illegal to take pictures of the animals on public land.