Legislation Could Make Undercover Farm Footage Illegal in Missouri

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JEFFERSON CITY- A bill that criminalizes undercover videos at farms was perfected in the House Tuesday. The legislation would make it a crime for undercover audio and visual recordings to portray poor conditions at agricultural facilities. The bill only requires one more vote before it is sent to the Senate for approval.

The legislation would consider a person guilty of a Class B Misdemeanor if he or she gains access by false pretenses. If a person produces a record at the operation, they will be guilty of a Class A Misdemeanor.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Casey Guernsey, R-Bethany, said his bill is not about cracking down on whistle-blowers, but it's meant to keep animal rights groups from sending people to the facilities, getting hired as an employee, and taking footage of the production. This type of undercover video is what resulted in the largest beef recall the United States has seen, when the Humane Society shot video of a downed cattle being pulled by forklifts ready for slaughter.

Opponents of the bill said some undercover investigations have helped improve conditions at agricultural facilities. Missouri would follow Iowa's lead with this bill. Iowa's similar bill has drawn some speculation about whether this violates the first amendment's freedom of speech.