Out of Sight, Out of Mind: GOP Indiana State Senator Moves To Make Undercover Videos A Crime At Farms And Businesses

100497Recently, the public was outraged by undercover videos taken in factory farms showing abuse of animals. While many legislators would see such videos and think of ways to force better conditions for animals, state Sen. Travis Holdman, a Republican from Markle, Ind., had a different reaction: make such videos by whistleblowers and journalists a crime.

This is the latest move to criminalize more conduct in the United States. I have criticized this trend in columns (here and here) and numerous blogs on the criminalization of using artificial turf to growing vegetable gardens to eating french fries in the subway.

Notably, torts already protect companies from trespass, even against news organizations. However, this does not include publication damages as a general rule. In Food Lion v. ABC , a store was shown in an undercover segment engaging in unsanitary techniques and accused Food Lion of selling rat-gnawed cheese, meat that was past its expiration date and old fish and ham that had been washed in bleach to kill the smell. Food Lion denied the allegations and sued ABC for trespass. A jury ruled against ABC and awarded Food Lion punitive damages for the investigation involving ABC journalists lying on their application forms and assuming positions under false pretenses (here). The Fourth Circuit however wiped out the punitive damage award while upholding the verdicts of trespass and breach of loyalty with awards of only $1 for each.

The new law in Indiana would make such videos a crime and allow a second such violation to be charged as a Class A misdemeanor, punishable with up to a $5,000 fine. Holdman truly found a home with industry lobbyists and portrayed animal rights whistleblowers and journalists as nothing more than “vigilantes” and refused to even acknowledge that they are either working to protect animals or inform the public: “We don’t need vigilantes out entering people’s private property, industrial operation, factory or farm, doing things surreptitiously … for no other reason than to annoy and harass.”

Strangely, he cited a story of a farmer in his district as the reason for the bill. The farmer reported that someone making a delivery had taken a picture of his phone. But then nothing happened. No embarrassment, no publication, no record that it occurred. However, that was enough for Holdman, he claims, to try to criminalize the work of journalists and whistleblowers.

What is particularly astonishing is that the Committee heard from a spokesman for Rose Acre Farms, which complained that it lost business after the Humane Society of the United States posted a video showing shocking conditions at their facilities. That would seem to be an excellent reason to support such whistleblowers but the Senators sat in open concern and shock for the company. There were no doubt gasps as Joe Miller, Rose Acre’s general counsel, recounted that 50 customers indicated that they might not want to do business with such a company and “that would have devastated our business.”

Thank God there are Travis Holdmans out there to protect such companies threatened by the exposure of animal abuse.

As you noted imagine, Holdman’s rankings show just a 10% score on civil liberties but 100% from conservative and business groups. He is an attorney and former prosecutor in Indiana.

Source: Indy Star

20 thoughts on “Out of Sight, Out of Mind: GOP Indiana State Senator Moves To Make Undercover Videos A Crime At Farms And Businesses”

  1. “Former prosecutor”? Why? Was he fired for incompetence or graft?

    It sounds like he’d rather be a persecutor.

  2. Since the crime of tresspass exists and the tort against damages done while and from tresspass are active why must this jackass bring forth a bill for a Federal law. Let the states deal with the issue. Now as far as the morality of the Courts and prosecutors dealing in this manner against Whistleblowers, my opinion – gross incompetance and abuse of power.

  3. One could suggest that Travis Holdman is taking his lead from the President and his DOJ…

    54 countries involved
    20 Prisoners unaccounted for

    ONE whistleblower behind bars for revealing
    International conspiracy to commit torture

    … If you want a glaring example.

  4. There is no trade secrets involved so what the employees see should be filmable.

  5. Greed and power prevailing over animal abuse and food safety. Keeping the citizens ignorant. It will continue until more investigative filming is done and the American people become aware of what is being done to them. Hopefully they will rise up, take power unto themselves, and demand via the ballot box important and necessary changes. Maybe one day people will fully understand and heed Eisenhower’s warning to “beware the military-industrial complex,” that vigilance is necessary to keep (in this instance, take back) this country “of, by, and for the people.”

  6. In the early nineties I saw a home-made videotape taken of a Palestinian children’s camp at which a little girl of about six or seven years old was screaming with excited inspiration about how she was going to commit suicide by strapping bombs onto her body and throwing herself onto the soil of the stolen fatherland and the translation subtitles said “pour out from my glowing body all my blood into the sacred soil so that I can avenge the stealing of my land!” and she was shaking all over, whereupon there was applause and she ran into the waiting arms of Arafat himself who congratulated her for winning some prize for bravery. The movie was grainy and inexpert but it showed what was going on; clearly it was unauthorized. We were told, “nothing about this leaves this room.” That is obsolete, and became so long ago. But I remember thinking that taking the video was very dangerous.

    One cannot find out what is really happening if all one sees and hears is the prepared story. I always wondered if that little girl is still alive. So beautiful. Wearing an embroidered dress. OMG. I was watching child abuse on tape. Someone did film it somehow.

    It’s obvious why this state senator wants to criminalize the delivery of information. Knowledge is power.

  7. another rush to lawlessness with the creation of un-enforceable rules and the oppressive conditions they create……where’s my flag….

  8. Transparently working for big donations. The whistle blowers have repeatedly said that while the penalties are not justified, it will not stop them. These type of actions are just the thing to wake up the public about who is running the show.

  9. “The Senator’s just following the President’s lead.”


    I guess the party line for the week is attack President Obama no matter what the topic. This has been the methodology since I was called “a running dog of capitalism” back in 1969 when I ran for President of my Union. I found that even though the two frontrunners were the overwhelming favorites, I the most radical besides the Trotskyite faction, was the only object of their attack. They were such a humorless crew that I beat them for third despite having no organization. They were fighting for the third position as a long term tactical maneuver and in that process refused to attack the two front runners who were destroying the democracy of the Union. The Trotskyite “leader” who ran against me quit the Union and sold out to the city administration to join management in a matter of a few years. Such was the depth of his devotion to the cause. The strategy used is an easy one to decipher and that is to smear specifically, not the most reactionary, but those who in what ever feeble manner possible would fight the reactionary elite who actually are in control. The belief is that then “you, the pure” will take control of the revolution and march to victory. It doesn’t work and it’s never worked. Just as Trotsky found out that he couldn’t trust a sociopath like Lenin and a psychopath like Stalin and wound up with an axe to the head, people of your ilk who believe it is all about economics are doomed to failure. It’s all about the will to power ad psychological need as the hapless Russian people discovered after the Revolution replaced the Tsar, with a regime that was equally oppressive and
    equally as class based.

    Here I see 44 years after that Union election, the same tactical stupidity bred by living a life devoted to party line. This thread was about a particular mindset, yet you are going to make your points despite the topic. In doing so you actually elevate this yokel in stature by the false argument of equivalency. JT is writing about how the interests of the people are being subsumed in the need to protect financial interests. This in and of itself is a topic worthy of discussion, but you give it short shrift in the service of your arcane political strategy. This doesn’t mean that this administration hasn’t done similar things, but I my understanding of where you are going informs me that in your rather closed mind you think you’ve got bigger fish to fry.

    Also before you accuse me of “redbaiting” again because I exposed who you are, why not simply admit your agenda? We have people of all sorts of political persuasions posting here and welcomed to post here. Many, such as libertarians are honest about where they are coming from, you not so much.

  10. Karl said, “Glenn Greenwald among others has long documented the alarming & unprecedented zeal and visciousness with which the Obama administration has gone after and prosecuted whisteblowers, most of whom should be considered National heroes but instead Obama’s henchmen throw them in jail.”

    yes, and the perpetrators of the bad deeds seem to get promotions, not prosecutions.

  11. I sure hope rafflaw is correct, Seems a few states are following the no-filming of industrial-farms gag-law.

  12. If the authorities can film us without a warrant on the street, as they do, we can film them without their permission. The last time I checked, these state officials work for the citizens and are paid by the citizens. At least the over the table money that is!

  13. So I guess Woodward and Bernstein and Deep throat would have been prosecuted and Nixon given a pass.

  14. Mespo,

    Couldn’t say it better…. No accountability in Washington, no accountability in what we eat….

  15. “He is an attorney and former prosecutor in Indiana.”


    When all you hold is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

  16. The Senator’s just following the President’s lead.

    Glenn Greenwald among others has long documented the alarming & unprecedented zeal and visciousness with which the Obama administration has gone after and prosecuted whisteblowers, most of whom should be considered National heroes but instead Obama’s henchmen throw them in jail.

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