The bill, passed by Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, says a person is guilty of “agricultural production facility fraud” if they obtain access to a farm by false pretences, or commit an act unauthorised by the owner of the farm.
Animal welfare organisations criticised the law, taking it as evidence that Iowa producers had something to hide. Philip Lymbery, CEO of Compassion in World Farming (CIWF), told GlobalMeatNews: “The ‘ag gag‘ bill on Iowa is appalling and raises the question – what have they got to hide? In the US, there are precious few laws to protect the welfare of farm animals, and those that exist are often woefully inadequate.
“Presumably, the idea behind this kind of bill is to stop the American people knowing the truth about what goes on behind the closed doors of the factory farm. We fully support efforts to stop these bills and their quest to keep Americans in the dark about how their food is produced.”
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) president and CEO Wayne Pacelle added: “This law makes it clearer than ever just how much Iowa’s factory farms have to hide. The legislature should be encouraging laws that prevent animal abuse, as well as worker, environmental and food safety violations. Instead, they have made it easier for abusers to avoid detection within an industry that is already sorely lacking in transparency.”
California-based organisation Mercy for Animals, which released undercover video footage showing cruelty on Iowa farms in the past, has also condemned the decision. “Governor Branstad has failed Iowa and the American people. By siding with those who seek to keep Iowa’s corrupt factory farming practices hidden from public view and signing this bill into law, he has created a safe haven for animal abuse and other criminal activity in the state. Mercy For Animals (...) is exploring all legal avenues to overturn this dangerous and un-American law,” said executive director Nathan Runkle.
The organisation is actively campaigning against the passage of similar laws in other states, including Illinois, New York, Utah, Indiana, Minnesota, Missouri and Nebraska.