Animal Rights Groups Band Together to Challenge Iowa’s ‘Ag-Gag’ Law

Wherever “ag-gag“ laws arise, animal defenders stand ready to knock them down again. Such is the case in Iowa, where a coalition of animal rights and other public interest groups banded together to fight the state’s criminalization of undercover investigations at factory farms, slaughterhouses and puppy mills.

Iowa’s law has been in place since 2012. In all, nine states have ag gag laws on the books at the moment — including North Carolina, Kansas, Montana, Iowa, Utah, Missouri, Idaho and Arkansas.

Federal courts have already found some of these laws, or others with similar effect, to be unconstitutional:

  • The U.S. District Court for Idaho struck down that state’s law for violating the First and Fourteenth Amendments in August 2015.
  • The U.S. District Court for Utah struck down a similar law in July 2017 on First Amendment grounds.
  • In Wyoming, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit decided in September 2017 that the state’s “Data Trespass” law, which made it  illegal for citizens to collect evidence — including taking photos — of potential environmental infractions, presented a First Amendment problem.

The lawsuit in Iowa is spearheaded by the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa, the Center for Food Safety, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and Bailing Out Benji.

pigs on factory farm

Photo credit: Thinkstock

Iowa’s law purports to prevent “agriculture production facility” fraud. The complaint asserts that the law makes it a crime to ˜obtain[] access to an agricultural production facility by false pretenses” or “make[ ] a false statement or representations on an employment application with an intent to commit an act not authorized by the owner” of the facility.

Most undercover investigations into animal welfare happen when investigators accept jobs at the facilities in question to see what’s going on behind closed doors. By doing so, they “reveal animal cruelty, unsafe food safety practices, environmental hazards, and inhumane working conditions,” explains the complaint.

Imagine that — getting the job and uncovering rampant animal cruelty is the criminal act. Treating the animals so heartlessly, on the other hand, is apparently fine. In fact, it’s often standard factory farming practice — and perfectly legal. We need to get our priorities straight, don’t we?

cows eating inside barn

Photo credit: Thinkstock

We all know that these investigations uncover horrors – ones that absolutely need to be made public. Undercover work by groups like PETA, Mercy for Animals, Compassion Over Killing and the Humane Society of the United States  has led to successful criminal cases.

PETA announced in a press release:

The American public has a right to know about the horrific conditions on factory farms. For more than 100 years, investigative accounts of meatpacking plants have been celebrated for raising public awareness and prompting social change. “Ag-gag” laws seek to punish the whistleblowers who are acting in the public interest and informing the public about the crimes and abuses that occur behind the closed doors of factory farms.

One by one, these activist groups are knocking down these legal barriers and getting the truth out there. States enact ag-gag laws out of fear that once the public knows what goes on behind the doors of factory farms, they’ll refuse to deal with those companies.

They’re right. The truth is ugly. Show people what’s really happening to those innocent animals, and you end up with unhappy, upset customers. Never seen that before? It looks a lot like this:

Some of these shocked people actually take action. They decide to ditch dairy, eggs and meat. Those industries lose business — but rather than changing their cruel practices, they choose to hide behind laws that keep whistleblowers from revealing the facts. If we can’t see it, we won’t object to it, right?

“Iowa’s Ag-Gag law has succeeded in hindering free speech and stamping out exposés of the industry,” said the ALDF in a press release. “In the years leading up to the passage of the law in 2012, there were at least ten undercover investigations of factory farms in Iowa. Since the law’s passage, there have been zero.”

Clearly those undercover video investigations work. If they didn’t, the industry wouldn’t care so much.

Go forth and conquer, ALDF, PETA, ACLU and the rest of you wonderful plaintiffs. If these laws are unconstitutional in Utah and Idaho, they’re unconstitutional everywhere.

Shame on the Iowa lawmakers who voted to pass an ag-gag law in the first place. Our animal friends should be treated with compassion and care, not tormented until we kill them and consume them.

The future is plant-based. Accept that, factory farmers. Get with it and adjust your business model — or watch your customer base dwindle.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

95 comments

Jennifer H
Jennifer H3 days ago

Agree with Bill Eagle. Ag-gags are bad for all animals.

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Shailja Mukhtyar

so sorry the big companies& their big Money- get help - to continue to misguide people/ & mistreat Gods 4 legged children.

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Jim V
Jim Ven9 days ago

thanks

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Jim V
Jim Ven9 days ago

thanks

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Jerome S
Jerome S9 days ago

thanks for sharing

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Bill Eagle
Bill E18 days ago

Ag-Gag Laws are terrible pieces of legislation and all need to be overturned.

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Jerome S
Jerome S18 days ago

thanks

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Jerome S
Jerome S18 days ago

thanks

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Joan E
Joan E19 days ago

Thanks to the animal rights groups for fighting for those who can't defend themselves.

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Leo C
Leo C20 days ago

Thank you for sharing!

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