Factory Farms Strike Back: The Return of Ag-Gag

March 26, 2019


This past January, we celebrated when Iowa’s ag-gag law was found unconstitutional by the Federal District Court for the Southern District of Iowa. The court found that the law, which criminalized gaining access to agricultural facilities by “false pretenses,” violated First Amendment free speech rights. Iowa passed the law shortly after a number of high-profile, undercover investigations revealed cruel treatment of animals on Iowa farms.

Many believed that the court’s ruling would be the end of ag-gag in the state, but the Iowa Legislature had other plans. Just two months after the original ag-gag law was struck down—and while it’s still pending appeal in court—Iowa passed a new ag-gag law to again try to protect Big Ag from public scrutiny. The new law is essentially the same as the previous one, criminalizing the use of “deception” to gain access to agricultural facilities. Small changes in phrasing (e.g., from “false pretenses” to “deception”) mimic the language of similar legislation from other states that has been upheld in courts, making it clear that Iowa lawmakers are studying various rulings in order to construct ag-gag laws with better chances of withstanding legal challenges. As long as these laws are in place criminalizing undercover investigations and whistleblowers, Big Ag can continue to cover up what’s happening on industrial farms.

The return of ag-gag in Iowa is the opposite of what the public wants—and the opposite of what agriculture should be doing. We know people are concerned about the treatment of farm animals and want to know how animals are raised. Farmers should be opening their barns instead of punishing those who seek to discover what’s actually happening on farms. Responsible farmers who are proud of the way they raise their animals don’t have anything to hide.

We need your help to stop more ag-gag laws from being passed. Join us to help Open the Barns and ensure that farm animals don’t suffer in secrecy.