A bill that would criminalize undercover footage of animal farms and slaughter facilities is on the floor of the State Senate, and has a good chance of being passed into law. Which means it would be up to only licensed law enforcement officials to discover abuses on local farms. Which means, frankly, that Miami-Dade farm animals-- and the people who want to know what they're eating-- are shit out of luck.
Nowhere like this county has the undercover footage of one activist made such an impact. Richard "Kudo" Couto's videos of illegal slaughter forced the mass-shuttering of the entire C-9 District after county officials and cops had ignored the area for years. And in November, butchers at a Hialeah farm were charged with felony animal abuse as a result of Couto filming hogs being bludgeoned with hammers and cows having their heads slowly sawed off.
The bill would make such civilian-recorded footage inadmissible to police investigations-- not to mention get Couto arrested. "It's a real back-track for the welfare of these animals," he says of the potential law. "People don't really know what's going on behind farm gates in this state unless they see video."
Republican Tampa Senator Jim Norman openly admits that he drafted the bill at the behest of an agriculture industry honcho: Wilton Simpson, a Pasco County egg farmer who produces 21 million eggs annually. Separately, Norman is currently the target of an ethics hearing concerning a $500,000 gift from a political benefactor his family used to buy an Arkansas vacation home.
This is Norman's second attempt at passing the bill, which was rejected last year for language that would have made photographing a farm a felony. The crime would now be a misdemeanor.
But even if the law passes, don't expect Couto to put away the hidden camera. "There's no way that I'm going to stop going into slaughterhouses and making footage," says the animal activist, "regardless of what the law states."