Iowa’s so-called ag-gag law that criminalized efforts to expose violations related to animal cruelty and food safety has been struck down as unconstitutional. The controversial law prohibited undercover videos showing animal abuse at factory farms, and also prevented whistleblowers from exposing unsafe working conditions or other workplace violations at animal agriculture facilities. A senior judge for the U.S. Southern District of Iowa ruled the 2012 state law violates free speech protections under the First Amendment.
Those protections, according to Veronica Fowler, communications director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa, can help inform consumers if their food is safe.
Journalists, individuals or advocacy groups who violated the ag-gag law to document or report on activities in the agricultural industry faced fines and up to one year in jail.
The Iowa Attorney General’s office said Wednesday it is reviewing the ruling to determine whether to appeal. Similar ag-gag laws have been struck down in Idaho and Utah. Fowler says the judge’s ruling citing First Amendment free speech confirms that whistle blowers cannot be silenced in order to protect one industry.
In his ruling, the judge noted a 2011 undercover investigation at Iowa Select Farms that produced reports of workers hurling small piglets onto a concrete floor, and another investigation that exposed workers at a Hormel Foods plant “beating pigs with metal rods.”