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ACLU of Iowa files suit against “Ag gag” law

DES MOINES, Iowa (KWWL) – The ACLU of Iowa has filed a lawsuit contesting the constitutionality of the state’s “ag gag” law.

The law makes it a crime to investigate agricultural facilities, including food and meat processing plants, livestock facilities and puppy mills. That law is similar to an earlier one that was determined to be unconstitutional and was struck down by a federal court.

In March of this year, Governor Kim Reynolds signed the new law targeting “agricultural production facility trespass.”  In essence, it makes it illegal for someone to access an agricultural production plant by deception, particularly if the person intends to cause “economic harm or other injury” to the facility. It’s designed to prosecute people who get hired at farms in order to work undercover to report on animal living conditions.

The ACLU argues that the new law has too loose of an interpretation of the word “deception,” and no definite explanation of what can be viewed as “other injury.”

The suit has been filed on behalf of a coalition of public interest groups, including the Animal Legal Defense Fund, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the Center for Food Safety, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and Bailing Out Benji.

In filing the suit, the ACLU of Iowa cites the First Amendment and the need to protect freedom of speech in Iowa.  The agency argues the law is aimed at silencing those who would expose animal cruelty, worker rights abuses, unsafe food safety practices and environmental hazards.

The suit was filed Monday in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa. Details of the suit can be read here.

In response to the filing, the Governor’s office issued a release which read,

“We are working with the Attorney General’s office to ensure this legislation that supports farmers is upheld. The Ag Trespass bill is designed to protect Iowa farmers from safety threats or biosecurity risks that untrained people on their property may cause,” said Gov. Reynolds. “I am committed to protecting Iowa farmers and ensuring the safety and security of their livestock.

Allison Gibson

News Director

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