Animal Law

.@PETA files lawsuit challenging Iowa’s ag-gag law



People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, along with the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa, the Center for Food Safety, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, the Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism–IowaWatch, and Bailing Out Benji filed suit challenging Iowa Code § 717A.3A, which is the state’s Agricultural production facility fraud law – also known as an “ag-gag” bill.

Under the law:

1. A person is guilty of agricultural production facility fraud if the person willfully does any of the following:

a. Obtains access to an agricultural production facility by false pretenses.

b. Makes a false statement or representation as part of an application or agreement to be employed at an agricultural production facility, if the person knows the statement to be false, and makes the statement with an intent to commit an act not authorized by the owner of the agricultural production facility, knowing that the act is not authorized.

The ACLU of Iowa’s legal director, Rita Bettis commented: “Iowa was one of the first states to pass a law that specifically aims to protect the agricultural industry from undercover reporting and undercover investigations. And it spurred on a wave of legislation across the country — nine states currently have ag gag laws similar to Iowa’s.”

Unfortunately, the law seems to be working in the favor of the agricultural industry: According to the ACLU, since the ag-gag law went into effect, there have been zero investigations. The law was passed in 2012; that same year, there had been about 20 investigations. Needless to say, the ag-gag bill has had a chilling effect on investigators who seek to uncover and make known the truth.

I have hope that this lawsuit will be a victory for animal activists and free speech advocates: Ag-gag laws in Idaho and Utah were struck down as unconstitutional.

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