State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.
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Bill to prevent secret filming of farms causing stir, if not action

Written by Mary Wilson, Former Capitol Bureau Chief | Apr 7, 2013 10:01 PM

This entry has been edited to correct Rep. Haluska's party affiliation.

Activists are sounding alarms over a state House proposal that hasn't seen much action to date. The measure would make it a felony to take photos, as well as audio- and videorecordings of a farm or agricultural land.

Rep. Gary Haluska (D-Cambria) said the idea for the legislation came from farmers in his district concerned about people trying to record or photograph their farm operations in an unflattering light.

"Sometimes you can take some things out of context, if you have a sick animal or something or if you have to dispatch an animal, which is just a normal part of doing business in the farming community, and sometimes it gets trumped up."

To dispatch an animal, Haluska clarified, means to kill an animal. His measure would shield farmers from multimedia sabotage intending to expose animal rights abuses.

"They felt it was unfair for people to come onto a property without permission and do any kind of photography or recording," said Haluska. "It would be just like, you know, me coming to your house, walking in the door and recording what you do."

The state already has a law against trespassing on agricultural land.

Environmentalists have suggested it would protect more than farmers - they claim energy companies, too, could be protected from would-be documentarians, since drilling sometimes takes place on agricultural land.

Haluska said his proposal has nothing to do with that. It's been referred to a House committee.

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