Iowa’s Controversial “Ag-Gag” Law Struck Down

On January 9th, 2019, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa struck down Iowa’s controversial “Ag-Gag” law which had made it a crime for undercover journalists or animal-rights activists to investigate and report on animal abuse in livestock facilities.

WHAT IT MEANS: U.S. District Judge James Gritzner ruled the statute, originally passed in 2012 by the Iowa legislature, to be unconstitutional and violated the First Amendment. In his ruling, Judge Gritzner wrote that the law had the effect of criminalizing undercover investigations of certain agriculture facilities, like livestock confinements, slaughterhouses and puppy mills. A spokesman for Iowa’s Attorney General Tom Miller said Mr. Miller would be studying the ruling and would consider an appeal, but no decision has been made as of yet. Stay tuned.

WHY IT MATTERS: The decision was an important victory for free speech and determined that Iowa’s “Ag-Gag” law was a violation of the First Amendment. As the law had deterred animal protection advocates from exposing animal cruelty, unsafe food safety practices, environmental hazards, and inhumane working conditions, Judge Gritner’s ruling will certainly help to ensure accountability at Iowa’s agriculture facilities. Read more about the impact of “Ag-Gag” laws from Vox here.

WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING: “This law was having its intended effect by keeping undercover investigators out of Iowa for the past seven years,” said Chris Green, Executive Director of Harvard Law School’s Animal Law & Policy Program. He added: “Given that Iowa is one of the largest animal agriculture producing states, this is likely the most significant Ag-Gag litigation victory yet.”

STILL MORE TO DO: This amazing news should be viewed with caution, as an appeal of the ruling may be on the horizon. In the meantime, this outcome is certainly good for advocates who are trying to reduce the suffering of farmed animals. To read more about the impact animal cruelty investigations are having on the lives of farmed animals, head over to our Investigations page to learn about the work we are doing to help.

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