George Steinmetz, the National Geographic contributor known for the landscapes he captures from a motorized paraglider, faces a court hearing in Kansas this Thursday following his arrest on June 28 for criminal trespass after he flew over a cattle feedlot in Finney County, Kansas.
The Hutchinson News of Hutchinson. Kansas, reported last week that paragliding instructor Wei Zhang, who was waiting for Steinmetz by a parked SUV, was also arrested. Steinmetz and Zhang were held in jail for about five hours. They were released after paying a $270 bond.
Finney County Sheriff Kevin Bascue told the newspaper Steinmetz and Zhang did not have permission to be on the cattle ranch. A feedlot employee had contacted the sheriff’s office after seeing Steinmetz taking photos of the ranch from the air. The employee also reported “an unknown vehicle” on the property.
Steinmetz and Zhang had moved by the time officers arrived, the paper reports, but “feedlot executives” wanted them arrested.
Although a Finney County attorney said in a statement that the charges are not about Steinmetz’s right to take pictures, Kansas and other states have criminalized unauthorized photography of farming operations. Under the Kansas law, it is illegal for a person to enter an animal facility that is not open to the public to take pictures or video.
Agri-business interests have lobbied for such laws to stop negative publicity about factory farming by PETA, a leading animal rights organization, and other groups.
Steinmetz was on assignment for National Geographic, shooting a story on food, at the time of his arrest. “National Geographic intends to provide counsel for George and his assistant in defense of the charges,” a National Geographic spokesperson says.
An attorney for the Kansas Livestock Association (KLA), a lobbying group for cattle ranchers, told the Hutchinson News that Steinmetz’s arrest was a reminder to his organization’s members to be alert to “unauthorized and suspicious activity.” “Everyone knows safe food starts with healthy animals,” the KLA attorney said. “We have to have those animals healthy in order to produce a safe food supply.”
Update July 18: At a scheduling hearing held today, a Finney County court judge set another hearing on August 29, 2013 for Steinmetz and Zhang. A local attorney hired by National Geographic to represent them appeared on their behalf at today’s hearing, a spokesperson for the publisher told PDN.
Agribusiness Pressing States to Criminalize Photographs of Farms
The NewsGuild of New York, the union representing The New York Times staffers, told members in a newsletter this morning that it will fight The Times’ proposed 20 percent reduction in photo desk staff via buyout. “As the Times makes changes to become a more ‘visually oriented’ news source, it is simply illogical to buy... More ›
Reuters has published a message from Editor-in-Chief Steve Adler to his staff that outlines how the news agency should cover the Trump administration in a “challenging” climate. “It’s not every day that a U.S. president calls journalists ‘among the most dishonest human beings on earth’ or that his chief strategist dubs the media ‘the opposition... More ›
Patagonia is using their recent winter catalogue to raise awareness of an environmental issue they’ve been working on for years: Protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from oil drilling and other resource exploitation. The outdoor clothing and gear company licensed images for the catalogue and its communications from conservation photographer Florian Schulz, who is currently... More ›