Idaho Legislators Want to Outlaw Videos of Men Sexually Abusing Cows—But Not for the Reason You Expect

It's not an animal-porn law, it's an ag-gag law.


The Los Angeles Times reports:

Milk Cow Blues
Mercy for Animals

Striking back at a proposed Idaho law that would ban undercover filming at farms, an animal rights group released video Tuesday of a dairy worker sexually abusing a cow.

The graphic scene, recorded in 2012, was not initially released when Los Angeles-based Mercy for Animals pushed authorities to investigate animal abuse at Bettencourt Dairies in Idaho. The original video showed about two minutes of lashings, beatings and stompings suffered by cows.

The dairy quickly fired five people after that video was released and installed surveillance cameras throughout its facility. The man seen fondling a cow's vagina in the newly released video eventually spent 102 days in jail.

Idaho lawmakers have proposed legislation to punish people who cause damage or videotape farm work after entering through force, threat, misrepresentation or trespass. It would be a misdemeanor punishable by a year in jail or a $5,000 fine—the same as convicted animal abusers.

Just to be clear: Trespassing is already illegal in Idaho. The bill, like other "ag gag" proposals, targets the trespassers' speech (and also the speech of whistleblowers who arguably were not trespassing). For a detailed case against such laws, which also often contain the seeds of bizarre unintended consequences, see Baylen Linnekin's Reason articles here and here. His arguments might not move the bill's most vociferous supporters, who have been calling the people who make such videos "agri-terrorists" among other stupid overblown rhetorical flourishes. But I suspect that other readers will find Linnekin's case compelling.

As for the footage released this week, you can watch it here. Don't worry, it doesn't feature man/cow intercourse. But it does show a guy fingering a cow's genitals and making various lewd remarks, so it's probably NSFW and it certainly isn't for the squeamish.