Federal Court Declares Iowa Ag-Gag Law Unconstitutional

We defeated another Ag-Gag law!

Today the federal court for the Southern District of Iowa granted summary judgment to our clients in our challenge to the Iowa Ag-Gag law and struck down the law as unconstitutional under the First Amendment.

Ag-Gag laws seek to criminalize undercover investigations at factory farms and other animal agricultural facilities by making it illegal to take videos or photographs inside such facilities or failing to disclose one’s affiliation with an animal rights organization when applying for a job.

As the court recognized, Iowa passed its law in response to media attention focused on the horrific cruelty in Iowa’s factory farms:

For example, in 2011, an undercover investigation at Iowa Select Farms produced reports of workers hurling small piglets onto a concrete floor. Another investigation at Iowa’s Sparboe Farms, documented reported mistreatment of hens and chicks. And yet another, conducted by PETA, exposed workers at a Hormel Foods supplier in Iowa “beating pigs with metal rods,” “sticking clothespins into pigs’ eyes and faces, and a super- visor kicking a young pig in the face, abdomen, and genitals to make her move while telling the investigator, ‘You gotta beat on the bitch. Make her cry.’”

Iowa is one of the largest states for industrial animal agriculture. Iowa is by far the country’s biggest producer of pigs raised for meat and hens raised for eggs. More than 20 million pigs and 45 million egg-laying hens are raised in Iowa each year, with tens of millions more cows, chickens, turkeys, and goats raised in the state. The vast majority of these animals are raised on factory farms, subject to intensive confinement, routine mutilations, and deplorable conditions.

With this ruling, animal right advocates should be free once again to inform the public of the horrific cruelty of factory farming.

This victory comes on the heels of our victories against Ag-Gag laws in Utah and Idaho, and we have pending challenges against Ag-Gag laws in Kansas and North Carolina.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are the Animal Legal Defense Fund, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, Bailing Out Benji, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and the Center for Food Safety. In addition to my office, they are represented by the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Iowa, and Public Justice.