Pigs are in their shed at a farm in Iowa. A judge Tuesday threw out a law prohibiting undercover investigations…
Nati Harnik / AP
A federal judge in Iowa says it is no longer a crime to become undercover at factories, slaughterhouses, and other agrarian operations. The 2012 team was a clear violation of the first amendment, the judge said.
The Animal Legislation Fund, one of the plaintiffs in the case called them “a profit for freedom of expression and animal welfare”.
“Ag-Gag laws are a harmful attempt by animal extraction industries to hide some of the worst forms of animal abuse in the United States,” said Stephen Wells, director of the ALDF, in a statement. “Today’s victory makes it clear that the government cannot protect these industries at the expense of our constitutional rights.”
“It was never the farmers’ intention to violate the constitutional rights of others,” said the Iowa Pork Producers Association Des Moines Register . “We depended on the courts to help us protect our rights to legally run our businesses and nurture our animals.”
Iowa created the crime of “agricultural production fraud” shortly after several investigations “brought critical national attention to the Iowa agricultural industry,” James Gritzner, senior judge of the US District Court wrote for the Southern District of Iowa. Iowa is one of the country’s largest producers of livestock.
Gritzner quoted several studies of Iowan industrial parks, which found that workers had thrown pigs against the floor or burned the chickens from hens without painkillers. At least some of these studies were conducted by people who took the job of revealing the beating of animals, Gritzner said.
Iowa lawyer began to consider passing the law, making it illegal for anyone to access a farming production facility “with false phenomena.” This effectively criminalized all undercover operations by journalists and activists. In fact, “no investigations were made in Iowa since the law was passed,” the Associated Press reported.
Iowa is not the only state that has gone through a law that criminalizes the investigated investigations of the farms. Similar laws in Idaho and Utah have also become the covers, NPR has reported.
Iowa lawmakers say the law responded to two concerns in the agricultural industry: plant safety and reputation for reputation that can be accompanied by investigative reporting. “What we are aiming for is to stop those groups that go out and launch campaigns that they use to raise money by trying to give the agricultural industry a bad name,” state senator Tom Rielly said at the time.
The team’s opponents argued that legislators undermined the protection offered by the first amendment to journalists. But in Iowa legislators said the law was added to defend the private ownership of Iowans, which owns agricultural facilities.
The question before the judge was if you lie – in this case, take a job under false pretenses – protected by First Amendment. Under these circumstances, he ruled, lies are protected. “To some extent, the concept of constitutional protection for speeches that are false can be worrying,” Gritzner wrote. But he said he quoted the US Supreme Court: “The nation knows well that one of the costs of the first amendment is that it protects the speech we abhor as well as the speech we speak.”
The first amendment protects false statements, Gritzner said, “whether they are investigative fraud or innocent lies.”