A state lawmaker from Lancaster County wants to crack down on people who secretly videotape farms.
Animal rights activists call it the "Ag-Gag" bill. They say the real goal of this legislation is to silence whistleblowers. Wednesday afternoon, state Sen. Mike Brubaker announced a big change to his bill that he says should silence the critics.
Last year, the Humane Society of the United States released undercover video from a farm in Manheim. They say it shows chickens being abused. But the state found nothing wrong. Brubaker introduced legislation making it a crime to take these types of videos.
"Instead of trying to combat the cruelty that was featured on that videotape, Senator Brubaker has decided to introduce legislation to criminalize the people for exposing that cruelty," said Sarah Speed, the Pennsylvania state director of the Humane Society of the United States.
Brubaker says he's willing to compromise and has made a major change: those who take undercover photos and videos must turn them over to the authorities.
"I don't want farmers to be accused of inhumane treatment of animals without going through the due process of the law," he said.
Brubaker's law would also prohibit making the photos and videos public.
"If the purpose of taking a photograph is to document inhumane treatment to animals, putting it on social media doesn't get the job done," he said.
Animal activists aren't convinced.
"It's still a bad bill," said Speed, "And it still seeks to cover up the public from knowing what is going on behind closed doors at the facilities that produce our food."
Brubaker said the state's 63,000 farms need to be protected. Opponents said the public has a right to know.
"What Sen. Brubaker is doing is basically the same as if the NCAA, instead of condemning the actions of the Rutgers basketball coach, instead tried to go for a law to make it illegal for anyone to tape a basketball practice," said Speed.
Under Brubaker's bill, there is no time limit for turning over the video to authorities.
Five states already have similar laws, and many more are considering it, but Brubaker's would be the first in the nation allowing immunity for those who turn videos over to authorities.