Proposed state legislation sponsored by Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie would prohibit secret videotaping of farm animals.
The bill would also make it illegal for unauthorized individuals to tamper with livestock in any way — by feeding animals, injecting them with substances, releasing them and the like without written consent of the farm owner.
Some animal rights groups contest the measure, arguing that it would prevent whistleblowers from exposing animal abuse, unsanitary conditions or other violations on farms.
Yet that is not the intent of the law; it would not prevent concerned employees or others from reporting animal abuse or other wrongdoing that would warrant a visit from an animal officer or food inspector.
The proposal helps fulfill a Department of Homeland Security mandate for "the agricultural industry to secure their operations," according to Farm Bureau spokesman Peter A. Gregg.
But it also prevents intruders from taking unauthorized liberties with the animals, including filming them without the owner's permission. Individual property owners and businesses are entitled to some privacy. There should be protection against clandestine filming of farm operations under false credentials.
If someone wants to film farm animals, let them receive a court order to do so. If an agricultural operation or any other business raises suspicions of possible violations, there are ways to investigate within the law.
Mrs. Ritchie referred to the bill as a "starting point in the discussion of how to deal with the growing problem of trespassing on private farms by strangers with little experience or knowledge of modern farming practices."
Most of us would not put up with strangers intruding on our property to secretly film, without permission, the life of the household. Farmers and other business owners are entitled to similar protection.
Sen. Ritchie's legislation should be passed.