Comment By Bob L.
July 12th 2013
Why are these Ag laws something to worry about, especially when our protector have let a so much bad food get put on the market.
I don’t know about you, I would be a little worries about what is being put on the store shelves, and in the meat coolers and freezers of your favorite food stores.
We know that steroids (illegal for humans to use) are being feed to beef up our meat, and now we have Marijuana starting to be put in the feed, and our food, is this how they are going to make us healthy by putting Drugs in out food, what else is being put into our foods that they don’t want you to know.
I can understand these radical groups that are only there to make people to think their way, and it does not have any thing to do with the safety of out food, just their way to protest, but not for the good of the Country.
Why are our Government Inspector not turning in wrong doings at these plants when Whistleblowers are seeing it going on? Is it I scratch your back you scratch mine, you know how the Government Agencies classify things that are really not to be classified.
Why Big Ag Wants to Keep the Cameras Away
The Fight for the Image: Who Gets to Define the Meat Industry?
Why You Should Be Worried About Ag-Gag Bills
Iowa ‘Ag-Gag’ Bill Targets Undercover Whistleblowers
National Geographic Photographer Arrested After Taking Photos of Kansas Feedlot
A freelance photographer on assignment for National Geographic was arrested in Finney County, Kansas, on June 28, after snapping aerial photographs of a cattle feedlot as part of a series on food issues scheduled for next year.
According to the Hutchinson News, Steinmetz was spotted in the air by a feedlot employee who reported the sighting to the sheriff’s office, noting that Steinmetz’s SUV was parked on ranch property. After Steinmetz and his ground support, Wei Zhang (described as a self-employed paraglide instructor), moved to another location, the feedlot executives insisted the men be arrested.
To be clear, George Steinmetz, who took the aerial photos from a paraglider, was not charged with breaking the state’s Farm Animal and Field Crop and Research Facilities Protection Act (we’ll get to that in a minute). Finney County Sheriff Kevin Bascue tells us that Steinmetz and Zhang were “arrested for having allegedly driven their vehicle onto private property that was clearly posted ‘No Trespassing.’ ”
Steinmetz did not respond to our request for an interview. National Geographic spokesperson Beth Foster would only issue this statement:
George Steinmetz was briefly detained by authorities in Kansas on June 28, 2013. He was shooting aerial photographs for National Geographic magazine, as part of a series of stories on food issues that will appear next year. We believe he did not break any laws and have reached out to local officials about the incident. We are awaiting more information. If the matter does require legal action, National Geographic will provide for his and his assistant’s defense.
Susan Richmeier, Finney County attorney, tells TakePart this is a simple criminal trespass misdemeanor case.
“The deal with these animal facilities is they’re not enclosed. They’re contained. There are trade secrets and security issues. What are they taking the photos for? To damage us? Sue us? Why is someone there? If someone is coming onto posted property—the question is why? Most of the feedlot guys would cooperate with any photographer. They just want to be asked,” says Richmeier.
Which feedlot facility are we talking about? Richmeier declined to identify them.
“They don’t want to be put in the public eye,” she says.
A looksee through the Kansas Department of Agriculture Division of Animal Health’s Annual Feedlot Report shows there are at least 12 feedlot facilities in Finney County, with a combined capacity of over 305,000 head of cattle. (To put that in perspective, Finney County has a population of approximately 37,000 people.) At its simplest definition, feedlots are the final stage of production, where cattle go to be fattened for market.
While the call to police was about a trespassing charge, it’s easy to jump to the underlying conclusion—this is really about Kansas’ ag-gag statue.
“Kansas was actually one of the first states to adopt a law restricting access to agricultural operations and prohibiting the photographing of agricultural facilities,” says Susan Schneider, Director, LL.M. in Agricultural & Food Law at the University of Arkansas School of Law. “The Kansas legislature passed the “Farm Animal and Field Crop and Research Facilities Protection Act” (K.S.A. 47-1825-1830) in 1990. This statute makes it a crime to ‘enter an animal facility to take pictures by photograph, video camera or by any other means.’ ”
But Steinmetz didn’t enter the facility; he flew through the air above it. Had he not been arrested for trespassing, would he have been crossing the legal line by taking photos from above? The answer is unclear.
“A landowner’s rights do extend to the airspace above his/her property. But the airways can be analogized to a public highway. If one is traveling through the air for a legitimate purpose in a reasonable manner at a height that would not unreasonably interfere with the landowner’s enjoyment of his/her property, in conformity with relevant flight regulations, then it would not be a trespass,” writes Schneider in an email.
“This issue may be coming up more and more, as state and federal gov’t agencies often need to rely on aerial photos for enforcement of conservation and environmental laws,” she says.
It’s also a hot topic among journalists and animal activists who are considering the use of drones to gather photo evidence of animal abuse.
Schneider says the issue here isn’t whether it’s a charge of trespassing or a violation of the agricultural protection act.
“The real issue is transparency. Farmers, feedlot operators and processors are all producing a product to sell to consumers. And that product is perhaps the most essential product on Earth—our food. Anytime the industry complains that people should not take a picture of how our food is being produced, it casts all of agriculture in a bad light,” she writes.
Related stories on TakePart:
• Why Big Ag Wants to Keep the Cameras Away
• The Fight for the Image: Who Gets to Define the Meat Industry?
• Why You Should Be Worried About Ag-Gag Bills