In 2010 the Florida legislature took strong steps to end horse slaughter and passed HB 765 which amended Section 474.203 of Florida Statutes making horse slaughter a felony offense with a minimum mandatory penalty of $3500 and a one-year jail term. The legislation passed unanimously demonstating clearly how Florida voters voiced their strong opposition to horse slaughter and animal cruelty.
In November, three men and two teenagers were charged with running an illegal slaughterhouse on the outskirts of Hialeah. Rudesindo "Rudy" Acosta, 57 was charged with 40 counts of confining an animal without food, water or exercise, three counts of animal cruelty, three counts of conspiracy to commit a crime, and one count of possessing a firearm while committing a felony. He is being held in jail in lieu of $500,000 bond.
Richard Cuoto, of Animal Recovery Mission has been doing much of the undercover work in the Miami-Dade area to expose the egregious practices of animal abuse and horror. In fact, Cuoto photographed Acosta brutally killing many of the animals - pigs, cows, and goats included. Explicit video showed animals beaten with sledgehammers or stabbed with knives just to save the expense of the cost of a bullet to at least humanely end the animal's life.
Yet, in 2011 and now again in 2012, legislation has been reintroduced by Senator Jim Norman and Representative Ben Albritton to make it illegal to take photographs, audio recordings or videos of any farm or agricultural operation without the owner's previous written consent. This legislation, supported exclusively by Big Ag and originally introduced through the influence of large egg farmer Wilton Simpson to stop activists from gathering evidence of animal cruelty is aimed directly at humane advocates and organizations who play important roles in exposing the egregious treatment as well as drawing attention to agricultural practices Americans find inhumane and despicable.
The effort is to make whistle blowers into criminals and protect animal abusers thus contradicting the 2010 horse slaughter bill. There will be exceptions for law enforcement or governmental regulatory agencies but not for journalists or animal activists leaving animal abuse in Florida essentially unaccountable. Humane organizations state this kind of legislation will violate First Amendment rights and prohibit investigations thus completely deregulating animal cruelty laws - setting the state of Florida back to 1889 when the first animal cruelty laws were enacted.
H.B. 1021 version is currently pending in the Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee. The Senate version S.B. 1184 has not been assigned to a committee yet.
S.B. 1184 reads:
"A person may not knowingly enter upon any nonpublic area of a farm and, without the prior written consent of the farm's owner or the owner's authorized representative, operate the audio or video recording function of any device with the intent of recording sound or images of the farm or farm operation."Ann Church, the vice president of state affairs for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Government Relations department was involved in the passage of the 2010 Florida state law which makes it a felony to kill, maim or mutilate a horse, and prohibits the transport, sale, distribution or possession of horse meat that is not acquired from a licensed slaughterhouse states the following about the recent reintroduction of the ag-gag bills:
"If these bills become law, documentation of cruelty cases could become nearly impossible. The Florida legislature took a tremendously good step forward when the horse slaughter bill was enacted; if these ag-gag bills pass, all such progress will grind to a halt and all animals will be in jeopardy. Animal abuse should not be hidden; it should be exposed."If you are a Florida resident, click here to find a list of Florida legislatures and write or fax them to vote "NO" on the Ag-Gag proposed legislation. Find committee members by clicking here.