Despite a fierce campaign to stop the measure, Iowa became the first state Friday to officially make it a crime to enter a farming operation with the intent to secretly videotape animal abuse. Undercover footage filmed by animal rights groups during the past several years have been instrumental in exposing cases of cruelty to farm animals.
Governor Terry Branstad signed the law in a private ceremony. Iowa is the country’s leading producer of pork and eggs and the governor is known to have “strong ties to the state’s agricultural industry.”
Those in the industry see the new law as a way to fight back against animal activists who “aim to damage” food production operations.
Rep. Annette Sweeney, R-Alden and the House Agriculture Committee chairperson said, “This is a very, very positive step for agriculture. For right now, I think it’s a start to realize that we are serious about protecting the agriculture that we have in our state.”
Sen. Matt McCoy, D-Des Moines, who tried to defeat the bill called it a “hollow victory” because his supporters were able to water-down the original version of the law.
The original legislation would have made it illegal to record video or audio tape an agriculture operation without permission from the farmer or business owner. The new version only objects obtaining access to the facility in a fraudulent manner.
The Iowa law makes it a misdemeanor to lie on a job application to get access to a farm facility. The crime would be punishable with up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $1,500.
Sen. Joe Seng, D-Davenport and a veterinarian who sponsored the bill, said the compromise discourages animal activists from sneaking onto farms, but does not stop a legitimate employee from reporting animal abuse.
Currently seven other states are considering similar laws: Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New York and Utah.
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