Monday, March 5, 2012

Legislators who voted for Iowa's Ag-Gag law to jail animal cruelty whistleblowers; boycott of Iowa food products called for

Mercy for Animals
Last Friday night, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad signed an Iowa law criminalizing exposure of animal cruelty by filming or recording animal abuse at any Iowa facility without the owner's consent if the whistleblower, for example, lied on a job application. Under the law, anyone who would access an inhumane factory farm's facilities under false pretenses (i.e., to expose its practices) is punishable by up to a year in prison, if s/he manages to
"Disrupt operations conducted at the animal facility, if the operations directly relate to agricultural production, animal maintenance, educational or scientific purposes, or veterinary care."
Annette Sweeney,
Dist. 44, Iowa House,
primary sponsor of law
punishing animal abuse
Anyone who "aids or abets" would also be jailed as well as anyone (except a spouse) who "harbored" the whistleblower.

The bill's prime sponsor was Representative Annette Sweeney. Of her bill, Dave Murphy wrote in the Huffington Post: "Regretfully, for the vast majority of Iowa's farmers, who have nothing to hide, the passage of this bill could make agricultural products coming out of Iowa to be considered unsafe, unsanitary and inhumane."

WOWT said Branstad told reporters that gaining access to property under false pretenses is a serious matter and property owners deserve protections. (Obviously, to Branstad, protecting animal abusers or unsafe food producers from being busted by outsiders is far more serious than the public's right to know about such practices.)

The law attempts to avoid constitutional challenges by not criminalizing the covert recording of animal cruelty or unsafe food production, only obtaining such recordings under false pretenses — a provision squarely aimed at animal rights groups and food safety activists. However, issues of prior restraint may still make the law unconstitutional.

Iowa House Vote (email addresses here):

Ayes, 69: Alons Anderson Baltimore Baudler Berry Brandenburg Byrnes Chambers Cownie De Boef Deyoe Dolecheck Drake Forristall Fry Garrett Gaskill Grassley Hagenow Hager Hanson Hanusa Heaton Hein Helland Horbach Huseman Iverson Jorgensen Kaufmann Kelley Klein Koester Lofgren Massie McCarthy Miller, H. Miller, L. Moore Muhlbauer Olson, S. Paustian Pearson Pettengill Quirk Raecker Rayhons Rogers Sands Schulte Schultz Shaw Smith, J. Soderberg Sweeney Taylor, J. Thomas Tjepkes Upmeyer Van Engelenhoven Vander Linden Wagner Watts Wenthe Willems Windschitl Wittneben Worthan, Speaker Paulsen

Nays, 28: Abdul-Samad Cohoon Gaines Hall Heddens Hunter Isenhart Jacoby Kajtazovic Kearns Kressig Lensing Lykam Mascher Murphy Oldson Olson, R. Olson, T. Petersen Running-Marquardt Smith, M. Steckman Swaim Taylor, T. Thede Wessel-Kroeschell Winckler Wolfe

Absent or not voting, 3: Arnold Lukan Rasmussen

Iowa Senate Vote (email addresses here):

Yeas, 40: Anderson Courtney Hancock Schoenjahn Bacon Dearden Horn Seng Bartz Dix Houser Seymour Beall Ernst Johnson Smith Behn Feenstra Kapucian Sodders Bertrand Fraise Kettering Sorenson Black Greiner Kibbie Ward Boettger Gronstal McKinley Whitver Bowman Hahn Ragan Wilhelm Chelgren Hamerlinck Rielly Zaun

Nays, 10: Bolkcom Dvorsky Jochum Quirmbach Danielson Hatch Mathis Dotzler Hogg McCoy

Absent, none.

Iowa factory farm animal abuse at Hormel supplier:

Reaction to Iowa's law was swift:

Mercy For Animals Executive Director Nathan Runkle has spoken out against the bill, calling it “patently un-American, dangerous, and a broad government overreach.” He told Food Safety News:
"This flawed and misdirected legislation could set a dangerous precedent nationwide by throwing shut the doors to industrial factory farms and allowing animal abuse, environmental violations, and food contamination issues to flourish undetected, unchallenged and unaddressed. This bill is bad for consumers, who want more, not less, transparency in production of their food."
     [The legislation's intent is to] "shield animal abusers from public scrutiny and prosecute investigators who dare to expose animal cruelty, environmental violations, dangerous working conditions or food safety concerns."
Paul Shapiro, senior director of farm animal protection for The Human Society of the United States: "These draconian bills to silence whistle-blowers show just how far the animal agribusiness industry is willing to go, and just how much the industry has to hide."

Randall Wilson of the Iowa Civil Liberties Union of Iowa said: “We all know it’s a thinly veiled attempt to eliminate investigative reporting and whistle-blowing regarding abuses in our food production chain...” [click to continue…]

1 comment:

  1. I wish some of these animal rights activists had so much gusto to protect helpless infant babies.