Idaho Bill Would Jail Animal Activists Caught Using Hidden Cameras

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In 2008, undercover video recorded by HSUS at a Chino, California slaughterhouse revealed how diseased, or "downer," cows were being used for beef sold to consumers in grocery stores. That investigation led to the country's largest-ever meat recall and a state law banning the use of such downed cattle.

Just last week, workers at a Wisconsin dairy farm in the supply chain for DiGiorno's Pizza were changed with 11 counts of criminal animal cruelty, following the release of undercover video by Mercy For Animals depicting brutal treatment of cows.

Patrick says the bill in Idaho is meant to also strengthen animal cruelty laws in the state. But, he adds, farmers are also concerned about food safety issues when activists gain access to their facilities.

"The Department of Homeland Security has said some of these groups are equal to Al Qaeda. We want to make sure our food security is not at risk," he said.

The fight against so-called ag-gag legislation has gained both publicity and momentum recently. 11 states introduced legislation last year alone, and activists called 2013 a tipping point in what they deemed a full-scale assault on their most powerful investigative tool. In the end, not a single bill passed.

Four states, including Idaho, have already considered some form of "ag-gag" legislation in 2014; lawmakers in Arizona, New Hampshire and Indiana also introduced bills this year.

There are laws on the books in six states, including Iowa, where it is a crime to get hired at a farm under false pretenses. That law passed in 2012, just a few months after an ABC News report that featured undercover video showing inhumane and unsanitary conditions at a large egg factory.

Undercover activists have vowed to continue reporting on conditions inside American farms, despite the push to keep them out. The activist who documented the abuse of cows at Bettencourt Dairies told ABC News last year the public needs these videos more than ever.

"Most members of the public don't understand what we're doing. They think we're just running around filming things and throwing it up on YouTube," he said. "These are criminal investigations."

The Idaho bill is expected to be voted on in the House next week. Naerebout says the farming community is anxious for change. "We cannot continue to have that exposure without protection."

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