Iowa Public Television


"Ag Gag" Bill Passes Iowa Legislature

posted on March 2, 2012

A bill making it illegal to apply for a job in a farming operation under false pretenses is close to becoming law in one of the nation’s largest livestock and commodity production states.

The measure, passed the Iowa legislature this week and now is awaiting the Governor’s signature.

Rep. Annette Sweeney, R – Alden, Iowa: “Our agriculture community needs some safe havens. We want to make sure we have as safe of a food source. With this bill we want to make sure everybody involved in our livestock facilities and working within in those facilities is forthright, and want to make sure our livestock is being kept safe.” 

Representative Annette Sweeney, a farmer herself, wrote the bill, adding there are cases in Iowa where activists have lied on job applications in an attempt to get hired at livestock production facilities.  This new law makes that a serious misdemeanor.

A controversial measure was removed from the bill making it illegal to surreptitiously document animal abuse.

But opponents want Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, who is expected to sign the bill, to veto the measure over concerns of stopping whistleblowers who secretly record inhumane treatment of animals.

Vandhana Bala/General Counsel, Mercy For Animals: “This is flawed and misdirected legislation that sets a very dangerous precedent nationwide by throwing shut the doors to industrial  factory farms and allowing animal abuse and environmental violations and food contamination to flourish, unchecked, undetected and unaddressed.”

The group “Mercy For Animals” held a protest this week in the shadow of Iowa’s capital. Thirty protesters, who were symbolically gagged and blindfolded, represented the California-based organization.

Mercy For Animals' says their undercover investigations in factory farms in Iowa and around the country have led to criminal charges for animal cruelty as well as landmark legislation, rescues of abused and neglected animals, and policy changes in major corporations. 

Vandhana Bala, Mercy For Animals: “Mercy For Animals undercover investigators serve as eyes and ears of American public who are kept largely in the dark about how animals are treated before how they reach our plates. As a civilized society, it is our moral obligation to protect these animals from needless cruelty and suffering.”

Vandhana Bala, MFA’s general counsel said Americans want more transparency in their food production system.

Vandhana Bala, Mercy For Animals: “If factory farmers truly cared about animal welfare, they would be providing incentives for whistleblowers, installing cameras in their facilities and working to strengthen the animal protection laws in the state of Iowa.”

Senator Joe Seng, D – Davenport, Iowa: “I really think it is an attempt to protect agriculture, but not have any subversive acts to bring down an industry.”

Iowa State Senator Joe Seng, a veterinarian, who  helped shepherd the bill through the legislature, is concerned about the potential for health risks. He said he’s interested in keeping unauthorized activists out, but not prohibiting someone from working legitimately on-site.

Senator Joe Seng, D – Davenport, Iowa: “Maybe corporations or small farmers, they have their life savings invested in facilities, of utmost importance to these people are the fact they have invested money in keeping birds out of there poultry house vermin such as  mice or rats, even cockroaches that type of thing from tracking in diseases from the outside.”

 Iowa is the first state to pass such a law. Similar legislation is being considered in as many as 13 states including Utah, Florida and New York.

For Market to Market, I’m Paul Yeager.

Tags: agriculture animal rights farm Iowa law legislation Mercy For Animals video