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Kentucky Senate Committee on Agriculture advances bill that would limit recording at private feeding operations, manufacturing plants

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A bill aimed at limiting recording at animal feeding operations and food manufacturing plants passed the state Senate’s Committee on Agriculture Tuesday.

Senate Bill 16 would criminalize the operation of unmanned aircraft and recording equipment at private facilities without the written consent of the owner as a Class B misdemeanor.

Opponents say it would keep news outlets and activist organizations like PETA from whistleblowing.

Activists from the nonprofit Mercy For Animals documented abuse towards pigs raised for slaughter in Louisville’s JBS Swift plant in 2018.

Tyson Foods representative Graham Hall told lawmakers that the recordings harm agricultural companies.

“Unauthorized drones could hinder our ability to continue business,” Hall said. “It could put our employees in danger. It could endanger our live animals. And we have a couple of instances that this has happened before.”

Kentucky Resources Council attorney and lobbyist Audrey Ernstberger opposes the bill. She testified the updated committee substitute is too vague and also criminalizes innocent behavior.

“The committee substitute presents numerous additional problems with the lack of definition and lack of intent to harm, reaching conduct that could include taking a picture of your child while at a petting zoo, or using your cell phone at a riding stable open to the public,” Ernstberger said.

The bill now heads to the Senate floor for consideration.

Shepherd joined WEKU in June 2023 as a staff reporter. He most recently worked for West Virginia Public Broadcasting as General Assignment Reporter. In that role, he collected interviews and captured photos in the northern region of West Virginia. Shepherd holds a master’s degree in Digital Marketing Communication and a bachelor’s in music from West Virginia University.
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