Iowa ‘Ag-Gag’ Law Banning Undercover Farm Probes Ruled Unconstitutional

"A federal judge said the law “clearly is a violation” of the First Amendment."

"DES MOINES, Iowa — A federal judge on Wednesday struck down an Iowa law that made it illegal to get a job at a livestock farm to conduct an animal cruelty undercover investigation, finding the law violated the constitutional right to free speech.

U.S. District Court Judge James Gritzner sided with opponents of the 2012 law that was intended to stop organizations like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals from doing animal abuse investigations at farms and puppy mills. Iowa lawmakers approved the measure, which threatened up to a year in jail to those who conducted an undercover operation, after several high-profile cases in which animal welfare advocates recorded questionable animal treatment and then publicized the images through the media.

Rita Bettis Austen, legal director for the ACLU of Iowa, called the ruling “an important victory for free speech” and argued the so-called ag-gag law was an example of government using its power to protect those with power. The ACLU joined with animal welfare, food safety and open government advocates in the lawsuit, filed in 2017 in U.S. District Court in Des Moines."

David Pitt reports for the Associated Press January 10, 2019.

Source: AP, 01/11/2019