The bill would make it a crime to “interfere with property associated with a livestock operation” by producing, possessing, or distributing audio or visual recordings of the operation. Violating the proposed law could result in a ten year prison sentence if the operations of the livestock facility are disrupted enough to cause $100,000 in losses for the owner.
Ten years in prison because you tried to let people know how badly animals are treated on farms in Iowa.
Much of the debate around the proposed legislation has been framed by accusations that the ultimate goal of undercover investigations of farms are done with the intention to “disparage” the agriculture industry. Backers of the legislation have even made the ludicrous claim that activists stage scenes of cruelty to farm animals in order to make the industry look bad.
It would be hard to explain how an activist stages some of the things we’ve seen in undercover investigations. In just one famous example, on the Wiles Hog Farm in Ohio most of the videotaped cruelty was committed by members of the Wiles family themselves. The investigation of the Wiles Hog Farm was made into a documentary for HBO.
This legislation comes on the heels of legislation proposed in Florida by Senator Jim Norman that would make it a felony to photograph farms without written consent from the owner of the farm, even if those photographs were taken from public roads or airplanes. The Florida bill is blatantly unconstitutional and would never stand up to a challenge in federal court.
Bills like this one in Iowa and the one in Florida serve only one purpose: to keep people in the dark about what it really means to eat animals. Those in the industry are terrified of the investigations we’ve heard about at Wiles or the recent HSUS investigation of Smithfield.
In Iowa they say their goal is to prevent activists from disparaging the industry’s image. But there’s no way to show what happens in a slaughterhouse in a positive light. It’s hard to film animals being tortured, confined, and murdered in a way that makes the industry look like innocent.
Those who make a living by killing animals know that their entire business model relies on the public not being aware of the overwhelming misery that occurs at every step of production. If you want to know what really happens on these farms then the undercover investigations are the only way you’re going to get the truth.
And the last thing that the livestock industry wants you to have is the truth.