Lawmakers still want to stop undercover videos

DES MOINES — A controversial agriculture bill remains in Iowa's Senate.

The bill creates penalties for offenses involving farms, including people who misrepresent themselves to enter farms and make recordings.

The House of Representatives passed the bill last year. 

The primary sponsor, Rep. Annette Sweeney, R-Alden, says its purpose is to encourage the correct reporting of animal abuse to the proper authorities, instead of allowing people to post videos online or distribute them to the media.

"If they see it's going on, they need to report it. I myself am a livestock producer and I abhor anybody that abuses animals," said the chairwoman of the House Agriculture Committee.


The bill has bi-partisan support, she said.

Opponents say the bill would silence animal rights groups by preventing them from shooting undercover videos that show the public conditions on livestock operations. A concern is whether it violates First Amendment rights of free speech.

Senator David Johnson, R-Ocheyedan, the ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, expects S.F. 431 to be addressed. He plans to vote for anything that can "put some teeth into it."

"I've seen some absolutely terrible videos of perpetrators of this who claim the operators or another employee is committing animal abuse when they're there to film or video tape it," said Johnson, who works on a dairy farm as a herdsman. "The people who are doing this, I truly believe their purpose is to drive livestock out of Iowa and the rest of the country. They basically don't believe we should be raising animals for food." 

The 2012 Iowa Legislature convened Jan. 9. 

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