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Anti-recording agriculture bill passes Kentucky Senate

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Flying drone, outdoor action on a defocused background. Royalty free image, no logos in the photo.

A bill that would limit recording at animal feeding operations and food manufacturing plants passed the state Senate on Thursday.

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

Recording without permission would be a class B misdemeanor under the bill, which can result in 90 days of jail time, a $250 fine or both. It moved to the Senate floor after being passed by the Committee on Agriculture Tuesday.

The bill targets animal rights groups like PETA and is meant to keep them from surveilling feedlots without the owners’ knowledge.

Those in favor, like Sen. Jason Howell, a Republican from District One, said the bill is meant to protect Kentucky’s most profitable agriculture industries, like poultry.

“Some of the animal rights groups will go over, they will hover over production facilities, feedlots, to try to get information that they can manipulate to work against our animal production industries,” Howell said.

But opponents, like Sen. Cassie Chambers Armstrong, a Democrat from Louisville, said it could undermine federal law that allows workers to document workplace safety concerns.

“My major concern with the bill is the way that it is so broad that it criminalizes something like taking a picture on your cell phone at work of something that could be a serious risk to your health and well being,” Armstrong said.

Others say the bill is too vague and overreaches into criminalizing innocent behavior. Lobbyists from the Kentucky Resources Council argue the broad scope of the bill could apply to food or safety inspectors taking photographs during routine visits, or visitors to zoos or race tracks open to the public.

The bill passed with 30 yes votes and six no votes. It now moves to the House of Representatives.

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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