September 17, 2019

Coalition Files Lawsuit Against Iowa’s Ag-Gag Law

A coalition of food safety experts and public interest groups has filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa to challenge the constitutionality of Iowa’s new Ag-Gag law. This law is similar to another law in that state that was struck down on January 9, 2019.

Coalition Files Lawsuit Against Iowa's Ag-Gag Law

Ag gag laws have been passed in many farming states around the country in response to undercover work by animal activists. Undercover videos have recorded violent animal cruelty at some facilities. In 2012, a video recorded at Central Valley Meat in California resulted in the suspension of that facility’s food registration for inhumane cattle treatment. That company supplied meat to the National School Lunch Program.

The Central Valley Meats video showed downed dairy cows being shot in the head several times before they died. And workers tortured animals by standing on their faces to stop breathing.

The Iowa bill criminalizes investigations at factory farms, slaughterhouses, and puppy mills. It creates a new crime called “agricultural production facility trespass” that makes access illegal if the person intends to cause an “injury” to the “business interest” of the facility.

The Center For Food Safety states that Iowa’s ag-gag law “is a blatant attempt to circumvent the federal court’s ruling and stifle free speech about the appalling conditions that animals endure in industrial animal agriculture.”

George Kimbrell, Legal Director of Center for Food Safety said in a statement, “Without effective regulation of industrial food, it is imperative that the public is able witness, expose, and critique the animal factory production practices because those practices have serious consequences—for animals, for workers, for our environment, and for our own health.”

Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Stephen Wells added, “Factory farms want to hide their abuses, and in some states lawmakers have been happy to help by passing Ag-Gag laws. But federal courts have consistently ruled that these laws violate our constitutional rights.  Ag-Gag laws are a threat to food safety, animal protection, the environment and workers’ rights. Iowa’s first Ag-Gag law violated our First Amendment rights, and we expect the court to come to the same conclusion this time.”

Many ag gag laws have been struck down in the courts following action by these groups. The court has recognized that deception is protected by the First Amendment.

The coalition is made up of Animal Legal Defense Fund, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), Center for Food Safety, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, and Bailing Out Benji. The coalition is represented by Public Justice, the Law Office of Matthew Strugar, the ACLU of Iowa, Justin Marceau and Alan Chen of the University of Denver Sturm College of Law, and in-house counsel for the plaintiff organizations.

 

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