In response to last year's undercover videotaping of a Wheatland hog farm,which rightfully sickened and outraged the public, state Rep. Sue Wallis, R-Recluse, drafted legislation which would outlaw the type of undercover investigation that led to arrests in the case.
An anonymous tip led to an undercover investigation by the Humane Society of the United States last Spring, which included video recordings of hogs being kicked, and piglets being tossed. A subsequent investigation by the Wyoming Livestock Board uncovered numerous harrowing incidents.
-- Workers cut off the testicles of piglets and fed them to their sow.
-- A woman worker who weighed more than 200 pounds sat on a sow that couldn't walk because of a broken leg and was screaming in agony.
-- Workers throwing piglets as if they were balls.
-- Keeping pigs in crates so small, the animals were nearly immobilized and helpless.
-- A sow with a prolapsed uterus that was left to die slowly after a worker botched an attempt to pull her piglets from her uterus.
Leana Stormont, investigative counsel for the Humane Society, described a "culture of cruelty" at the hog farm.
In December, the Platte County attorney's office charged nine employees a total of 29 counts of animal cruelty.
Wyoming Premium Farms is now under new management -- AMVC Management Services, a livestock producing company based in Audobon, Iowa.
AMVC provides the operation with swine health and welfare management and oversight, as well as leadership and training of the employees.
Wyoming Premium Farms ownership apparently has taken the correct steps to rectify the operation's culture of cruelty.
That leads us to Wallis' egregious lapse in judgment. House Bill 126 would criminalize activities used to conduct investigations on private agricultural operations used for the production of livestock or livestock products.
This includes any person without consent from the owner or manager of the agricultural operation who knowingly or intentionally records an image of or sound from the operation. The bill also includes recording images or sounds while committing criminal trespass, accessing operations under false pretenses or, most alarming, while under the employment of the operation.
This anti-whistleblower legislation is unnecessary and unjust. And, given the fact that Wallis is the chief executive of a company that has proposed horse slaughterhouse plants in Oklahoma, Missouri and the Riverton area, it's unethical.
If animal abuse isn't enough to turn your stomach, think about undercover operations that have stopped the spread of foodborne illnesses and the shipping of meat from sick animals.
If HB 126 passes as currently written, employees and others seeking to expose animal abuse and other forms of illicit conduct on farms would risk Class C misdemeanor charges punishable by up to six months in jail and/or a $750 fine.
Wallis conveniently slipped language into her bill that allows any peace officer, agent or officer of the livestock board to lawfully interfere to prevent the perpetration of any act of cruelty upon any livestock animal in his presence. Anyone who attempts to impede those efforts could be fined or imprisoned.
It goes on to say anyone who knows that a livestock animal is being cruelly treated and reports it within 48 hours is immune from civil liability.
Unfortunately, if HB 126 passes, none of those tips will be based on visual evidence. It will be based on one of two things -- hearsay or illegal video.
Wonder how far that'll go?