Idaho lawmakers target undercover activists as video surfaces of cow sex abuse

By John Byrne
Wednesday, February 19, 2014 11:59 EDT
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As Idaho lawmakers seek to target undercover animal rights activists,  yet another video has surfaced of an agricultural worker abusing a cow.

This time, it’s even more grotesque: a worker fondling a cow’s vagina.

If Idaho lawmakers have their way, however, future abuses may never see the light of day.

Legislation targeting those who aid efforts to expose animal abuse, which passed the Idaho Senate Friday, would subject those who surreptitiously film dairies or agricultural operations after misrepresenting their intent to up to a year in jail or a $5,000 fine. Specifically, the proposed law targets those who falsely represent their affiliation or lie on job applications in order to gain access to animals activists suspected of being mistreated. The  bill now goes to the Idaho House.

The penalty, activists note, is similar to that doled out to abusers themselves.

Idaho’s dairy industry says they need a shield to protect them from animal rights advocates who misrepresent their backgrounds on job applications. Local politicians have compared such activists to terrorists, with the bill’s cosponsor, Idaho Sen. Jim Patrick, even likening advocates to pre-medieval marauders.

“This is clear[ly] back in the sixth century B.C.,” Patrick was quoted as saying. “This is the way you combat your enemies.”

Animal rights activists and whisteblowers are outraged.

“This legislation is a desperate attempt to sweep evidence of animal cruelty and sexual abuse under the rug,” Mercy For Animals executive director Nathan Runkle said in a statement. He called the law “pathetic.”

“People who are whistle-blowers are terrified,”  Boise resident David Monsees told one news outlet. “They lose their jobs. They lose their careers. This bill drives another nail in their hearts.”

Yesterday, Mercy for Animals released a graphic video of an Idaho dairy worker fondling a cow’s vagina. (The video  appears below.) The Los Angeles-based activist group withheld the  segment when it released other parts of the recording in an effort to prod officials to investigate Idaho’s Bettencourt Dairies in 2012. The worker captured in the video received a 102-day sentence for additional abuses.

Bettencourt Dairies supplied some cheeses for Burger King and In-And-Out Burger. Both corporations distanced themselves from the dairy following the revelations; Bettencourt forced workers to watch the video and sign a statement acknowledging the company’s policy on ethical treatment.

The earlier two-minute video captured farmworkers stomping on animals, twisting their tails, and in one scene, dragging one animal with a tractor by its  neck. Mercy for Animals said the clip showed “some of the most abusive treatment of animals” they’d ever seen. (That clip follows the more graphic clip below.)

Undercover videos have forced large corporations to sever relationships with their suppliers. Earlier this year, Nestle cut ties with a Wisconsin dairy farm after it emerged they were beating, whipping and cutting animals. Four workers captured in the video — also shot by an undercover Mercy for Animals investigator — were charged with animal cruelty.

Several states already have so-called “ag gag” laws on their books. Iowa is one; Utah is another. Utah’s law is currently being challenged in court.

The proposed Idaho law can be read here.

Graphic sexual abuse clip: (May not be appropriate for all readers.)

Earlier abuse clip, also graphic: (May not be appropriate for all readers.)

[Photo credit: Shutterstock]

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