Federal Judge Strikes Down Iowa’s ‘Ag-Gag’ Law

A federal judge on Wednesday struck down an Iowa law that prohibited journalists and activists from going undercover to report on animal-rights abuses, Courthouse News reports. The 2012 statute, one of the many “ag-gag” laws across the nation, criminalized the act of making false statements in order to gain access to a livestock facility—in essence, hamstringing any attempts by journalists or activists to conduct undercover investigations. In his Wednesday ruling, U.S. District Judge James Gritzner wrote that the statute violated the First Amendment and could prevent abuses from being uncovered. “In 2011, an undercover investigation at Iowa Select Farms produced reports of workers hurling small piglets onto a concrete floor,” Gritzner wrote, adding that “yet another, conducted by PETA, exposed workers at a Hormel Foods supplier in Iowa ‘beating pigs with metal rods.’”

Animal-rights activists lauded the decision. “Ag gag clearly is a violation of Iowans’ First Amendment rights to free speech,” said Rita Bettis Austen, legal director of the Iowa chapter of the ACLU. “It has effectively silenced advocates and ensured that animal cruelty, unsafe food safety practices, environmental hazards, and inhumane working conditions go unreported for years.” A spokesman for Iowa’s attorney general, who was named as a defendant in the lawsuit, told Courthouse News that he has not yet decided if his office will appeal the ruling.