June 20, 2024

Judge Strikes Down Iowa Ag Gag Law

A federal judge struck down Iowa’s ag gag law last week. Those laws make it illegal for animal rights advocates to go undercover to expose animal abuse at farms and puppy mills. The 2012 law was approved by Iowa lawmakers, and carried a fine of up to year in jail.


ACLU legal director Rita Bettis Austen said the ruling was “an important victory for free speech.” She also said that the law was an example of government using its power to protect those in power. She added, “Ag gag clearly is a violation of Iowans’ First Amendment rights to free speech. It has effectively silenced advocates and ensured that animal cruelty, unsafe food safety practices, environmental hazards, and inhumane working conditions go unreported for years.”

The Animal Legal Defense Fund was one of the plaintiffs in the case. ALDF Executive Director Stephen Wells said in a statement, “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 those industries at the expense of our constitutional rights.”

Some of those videos taken by undercover workers on Iowa industrial farms showed pigs thrown against the floor and workers burning the beaks off hens without painkillers.

Many ag gag laws were signed into place in the past few years. Courts have struck down the laws in Utah, Wyoming, and Idaho. A similar law in North Carolina is going through litigation. In Tennessee, Governor Haslam vetoed an ag gag bill in 2013.

Back in 2013, the Humane Society of the United States said that ag gag bill hide animal cruelty. A 2008 Humane Society video uncovered severe animal cruelty at the Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Company, which was slaughtering downer cows that are not supposed to enter the food supply because of mad cow disease risk. That led to one of the largest beef recalls in U.S. history, including meat that was supposed to go to the School Lunch Program.


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