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Legal / Regulatory

January 13, 2019 - The Vegan Authority

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Iowa 'Ag-Gag' Law used to criminalize undercover investigations ruled unconstitutional

Iowa 'Ag-Gag' Law used to criminalize undercover investigations ruled unconstitutional

The US District District Court struck down the 2012 statute, known as Iowa's 'ag-law' previously passed by the Iowa legislature designed to prevent undercover reporters or activists from entering livestock facilities and factory farms to report on animal abuse.

The US District District Court struck down the 2012 statute, known as Iowa's 'ag-law' previously passed by the Iowa legislature designed to prevent undercover reporters or activists from entering livestock facilities and factory farms to report on animal abuse.

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According to Federal Judge James Gritzner the 2012 Agricultural Production Facility Fraud law violated the constitution's first amendment of free speech. Furthermore, the ruling stated that "the law has the effect of criminalizing undercover investigations of certain agricultural facilities" including livestock confinements, egg production facilities, slaughterhouses and puppy mills.

Iowa lawmakers said the law was passed in response to concerns of the agricultural industry, including: facility security, defending their private property rights, and reputational harms that can accompany investigative reporting, reported NPR.

The Iowa law was challenged in 2017 in federal court by the Animal Legal Defense Fund, Center for Food Safety, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and two Iowa-based groups represented by lead attorney Rita Bettis Austen, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa.

Animal rights groups considered the ruling a victory. Stephen Wells, executive director of the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), one of the plaintiffs in the case, said that "Ag-Gag laws are a pernicious attempt by animal exploitation industries to hide some of the worst forms of animal abuse in the United States". “Today’s victory makes it clear that the government cannot protect these industries at the expense of our constitutional rights.”

"For more than a century, the public has relied on undercover investigations to expose illegal and cruel practices on factory farms and slaughterhouses, Wells elaborated further.

"No federal laws govern the condition in which farmed animals are raised, and laws addressing slaughter and transport are laxly enforced.

"Undercover investigations are the primary avenue through which the public receives information about animal agriculture operations."

The ALFD  reported that "Iowa is the biggest producer of pigs raised for meat and hens raised for eggs in the United States, making it critically important that investigations there are not suppressed".

The Dodo declared Iowa as one for the 5 worst states to be a farm animal, describing it as an "epicenter of factory farm animal abuse" that has been "subject to its fair share of media scrutiny for the horrifying abuses that have taken place in its numerous mass agricultural facilities".



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