INDIANAPOLIS – A famous rock star and former game show host are calling on Indiana legislators to stop a measure banning undercover videotaping on Indiana farms.
Tony Kanal of the rock band No Doubt and Price is Right host Bob Barker have both written letters to House Speaker Brian Bosma about Senate Bill 373, which could soon be under consideration in the House after being passed by the Senate last month.
Kanal, who spent part of his childhood in Indiana, wrote: “I hope you’ll stop this bill and protect our right to bear witness to these abuses. This bill could prevent inside whistleblowers from collecting evidence of systematic, routine, and inherent abuses on farms.”
“Americans today want better treatment of animals killed for food, not for their legislators to hide illegal cruelty on farms behind locked doors,” wrote Barker in his letter to the speaker.
The pushback from Barker met strong reaction from the bill’s supporters.
“I don’t know that Bob Barker or a rock star based in California is particularly knowledgeable about the ins and outs of Indiana agriculture, but they are representing themselves as such,” said Bob Kraft, director of state government relations for Indiana Farm Bureau.
“I watched Bob Barker doing the Price is Right for many years, and I never told him how to operate,” said farmer and state Rep. Bill Friend, R-Macy, one of the bill’s sponsors. “So I would suggest he let me operate my business in the proper fashion, as a professional and as an individual who cares for his animals.”
“This is an example of big government stepping on people’s first amendment rights,” said state Sen. Mark Stoops, D-Bloomington, who opposed the bill in the Senate.
Still, supporters of the bill don’t see it the same way – they feel the undercover videos in question are often taken out of context.
“They’re misleading,” Kraft said. “They display things that are maybe acceptable animal husbandry practices, but can be portrayed as looking bad to a public that doesn’t understand what’s going on.”
“It would be very difficult to prosecute, it would also be very difficult to defend, and I am sure this is unconstitutional,” said Stoops. “I’m hoping this bill will just be pulled, and we’ll be done with it.”
The bill’s author, state Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle, issued this statement Wednesday:
“This legislation is designed to protect the right to privacy on one’s own property. The average homeowner wouldn’t want people publicly sharing photos or videos of the inside of their home to try to defame their reputation, and farmers and business owners are no different. Because these businesses are frequent targets of harassment by activists, we’re extending protection to these operations. In the case that illegal activity is taking place at these operations, SB 373 would provide honest whistleblowers with a defense if they report the violations to law enforcement or a regulatory agency. This protects those who are acting in good faith and alerting the appropriate authorities to any questionable practices.”
That exception would apply if the abuse is reported within a 48-hour period.
“To me, if it’s an illegal act, does that somehow make it not illegal after 48 hours?” asked Stoops.
“If anything, it would encourage more prompt reporting of events such as this,” said Kraft. “If you’re talking about an animal being mistreated, 48 hours is a long time. To wait any longer would really be a disservice to the animal.”
PETA officials told Fox59 they think there need to be more cameras on farms, not fewer.
The bill has yet to be assigned to a committee in the House.