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Wednesday, Apr 17 2013 12:46 PM

California bill to thwart animal investigations is killed

BY TRACIE CONE Associated Press

SACRAMENTO -- A bill that would have limited undercover farm animal abuse investigations has been pulled by its author amid stiff and growing opposition.

Jim Patterson, R-Fresno, had carried the bill for the California Cattlemen's Association, which said it sought to quickly end abuse. Patterson pulled the bill Wednesday just three hours before it was to be voted on by the Assembly Agriculture Committee.

Patterson's bill would have required anyone collecting evidence of abuse to turn it over to law enforcement within 48 hours, which animal advocates say does not allow enough time to show a pattern of illegal activity under federal humane handling and food safety laws.

"My intention with this will was and remains to be the prevention of animal cruelty," Patterson said. "The chair of the agriculture committee, myself and the California Cattlemen's Association have agreed to hold a hearing in the future to discuss how we can move forward with our goals of a safe food supply, strong agriculture industry and the humane treatment of livestock."

Now California joins Arkansas, Wyoming and Indiana in declining in recent weeks to advance bills that seek to punish the documenter of farm animal abuse rather than the abuse itself. Tennessee is close to passing a similar bill.

"We are pleased to see the bill shelved," said Jennifer Fearing, who led opposition as California State Director of the Humane Society of the United States. "The problem isn't the rate at which animal cruelty is disclosed to authorities -- but with the rampant cruelty itself. Industrial farming operations should be run so well that videos could never capture anything they wouldn't want their customers to see."

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