Photographers would need permission to take pictures or video inside pork production facilities, research laboratories and other places where animals are kept, under a bill that passed the Missouri House on Tuesday.

The proposal came in the form of an amendment offered by Rep. Ken Legan, a Republican from Halfway, to a bill dealing with agriculture. Legan's amendment would make it illegal to "photograph, videotape or otherwise obtain images from within a structure that an animal is housed without the express written consent of the animal facility."

"Animal facility" includes farms, businesses, organizations, laboratories, veterinary facilities, kennels and pet food research and production facilities. Legan says the pork industry proposed the amendment to him, whose members have complained about animal rights organizations illegally entering facilities and taking pictures of swine operations.

"They (activists) just take pictures and use them in ads in a negative way," says Legan. "To me, it's a property rights issue. Nobody has any business taking pictures on private property without permission.”

But the provision doesn’t limit the prohibition to people who trespass at animal facilities. It also would apply to anyone photographing at an animal facility without the owner's consent, such as a television news crew doing an undercover investigation with hidden video cameras.

Some lawmakers didn't like the amendment. Trespassing laws already cover situations such as those described by Legan, according to Rep. Mark Abel, a Festus Democrat. Legan's amendment goes well beyond pork operations, says Abel. "The way it (the amendment) is written, you couldn't even take pictures at the zoo," he notes. "It's awful. It's a useless amendment."

Language was inserted in the amendment that said the prohibition would apply only to photographs or video taken "with the intent to commit a crime." However, it was unclear what that meant.

Legan's amendment originally would have made it a felony to take pictures inside an animal facility, but the House lowered it to a misdemeanor. The House adopted the amendment on a voice vote.

The agriculture bill now must go back to the Senate.The Senate on Monday adopted a similar provision, which was sponsored by Sen. Harold Caskey, a Butler Democrat. That was attached to a different bill, however.

Press organizations voiced concern about the language. "The public has benefited in some instances where photographers have gone in and they brought to light illegal or shoddy conditions," says Doug Crews, executive director of the Missouri Press Association.

Kansas City Star