It is now a criminal offense in Iowa to film inside a livestock facility without the permission of the owner.
The bill, which received widespread Republican support in the statehouse with minimal opposition from Democrats, represents the second attempt to meet constitutional requirements.
The state’s first so-called “ag gag’’ law was struck down on constitutional grounds.
Iowa is the No. 1 hog-producing state. The hog industry exports more than $1 billion of products worldwide so it is easy to understand why lawmakers want to protect livestock operations. Lobbying was led by the state’s pork industry.
The legislation’s fate in court remains murky. However, its supporters are convinced that it will pass constitutional muster. Iowa joins six other states with ag gag laws on the books.
The law will certainly be challenged. The American Civil Liberties Union, which successfully fought the 2012 law, says it will aggressively challenge the new one. It will do so on free-speech grounds. The law’s opponents argue that past investigations have revealed animal abuses and inhumane treatment, leading to prosecutions and convictions of employees and owners, and forced some operations out of business.
There is an ugly side to livestock production — the mindless and economically foolish abuse of animals. It is more likely to occur when employees fail to follow prescribed husbandry practices or are not sufficiently trained to do so.
Hog operations have become more proactive with regards to establishing recommended husbandry practices.
By far, most operations don’t mistreat animals. However, the ones that do harm the reputations of everyone else.
Consumers, retail establishments and restaurants that serve meat products have weighed in and will continue to weigh in on acceptable standards. The poultry industry has already responded with more cage-free hens.
Iowa hog producers, like others across the country, are being challenged by stagnant market prices, a strong dollar and on-going trade uncertainty. The potential for an African swine fever outbreak, which caused the cancelation of the 2019 World Pork Expo in Des Moines, has caused producers to strengthen their security. It’s a shame the expo had to be cancelled because it showcases the industry in a most positive light.
Iowa livestock producers need to be protected from trespassing undercover operators. It is and must continue to identify bad actors who foolishly abuse animals in their care.
The fate of the new law will be decided in court. Producers won’t have to deal with trespassers and potential disease risk. However, animal treatment issues won’t go away. Pork producers and others benefit by continuing to take aggressive action to prevent abuses.