Iowa Governor Terry Branstad has signed into law a bill that will make it an offence to capture undercover video of animal abuse by getting a job at a factory farm.
The bill was was rushed through both houses of the Iowa legislature last week, and was signed by the Governor on Friday, March 2nd, although he did not reveal this until this week.
The new law says:
Agricultural production facility fraud. 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.
Branstad defended the bill. “If somebody comes on somebody else’s property through fraud or deception or lying, that is a serious violation of people’s rights and people should be held accountable for that,” he told reporters on Monday.
Recent undercover work resulted in McDonald’s putting a stop to buying from egg supplier Sparboe after an investigation by animal protection group Mercy for Animals showed horrific video of life and death at its factory. And another investigation by Mercy for Animals pushed McDonalds to phase out the use of gestation crates for pigs.
“These are deeply flawed, misdirected laws that can set a dangerous precedent nationwide by throwing shut the doors of factory farms and allowing animal abuse, environmental violations and all sorts of other criminal activities that we know often occur at these facilities, and keep those criminal activities hidden from public view,” said Matt Rice, director of investigations at Mercy for Animals.
Branstad argued that the new law would not affect employees who see something and report it. But it was unclear what he meant by this. What was very clear was that the health of the factory farming industry was a lot more important that the health and protection of the animals
“Agriculture is an important part of our economy and farmers should not be subjected to people doing illegal, inappropriate things and being involved in fraud and deception in order to try to disrupt agricultural operations,” Branstad said.
In 2011, Ag-gag measures were introduced but not passed in Florida and Minnesota. Similar bills have been introduced this year in New York, Indiana and Nebraska. And lawmakers in Utah are currently gaining support for their own version of such a bill, which has already been passed in the House.