SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Senate passed an amended version of a bill intended to preclude interference with agricultural operations.
HB187 is intended to prohibit trespassing at agricultural operations under false pretenses or obtaining employment with the intent of recording images or sound from an agricultural operation.
“Basically, it’s a trespassing bill,” said Sen. David Hinkins, R-Orangeville. The Senate voted 19-7 to send the bill, sponsored by Rep. John Mathis, R-Vernal, to a final reading in the Senate.
The bill targets people who intentionally seek employment in agricultural operations “who have no reason to be there except espionage, to spy on the operation,” Hinkins said.
Hinkins said even in cases of domestic violence or child abuse, no one has the right to hide cameras in the home of suspected perpetrator.
“This is a property rights question,” Hinkins said.
The bill attempts to push back against animal rights groups attempting to harm the livestock industry, he said.
“It’s the vegetarian people. That’s what’s trying to kill the animal industry,” he said.
Hinkins said there is a demand for beef and other products that result from livestock production.
On ranches, livestock is “raised and slaughtered and ate. That’s what happens on a ranching operation.” While some people may find those operations off-putting,
“Every time you go to McDonald’s that’s what hamburgers are. It’s a dead cow,” Hinkins said.
Some senators questioned whether legitimate whistleblowers could be negatively impacted by the legislation if they bring to light a food safety or animal cruelty issue.
Hinkins said the bill targets people hired under false pretenses who are “working for activist companies.”
If employees witness such events, they can contact the state veterinarian to investigate, he said.
“There’s other ways to do it instead of hiding cameras or modifying the films.”