Lawsuit Challenging Iowa’s Ag-Gag Law Proceeds, State’s Motion to Dismiss Denied

Posted on February 27, 2018

Advocates for Animals, Workers, Free Speech and Food Safety Take on Agricultural Giants, Following Victories in Utah and Idaho

DES MOINES, Iowa – Today the Federal District Court for the Southern District of Iowa denied Iowa’s motion to dismiss a pending lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the state’s Ag-Gag law. In October 2017, a coalition of public interest groups and journalists led by the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Iowa, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the Center for Food Safety, Public Justice and the Law Office of Matthew Strugar, filed the lawsuit. Iowa’s Ag-Gag law criminalizes undercover investigations at factory farms, slaughterhouses, and puppy mills, effectively silencing advocates and ensuring animal cruelty, unsafe food safety practices, environmental hazards, and inhumane working conditions go unreported. The coalition argues Iowa’s Ag-Gag law violates the First Amendment of the Constitution, which grants freedom of speech under the law. Federal courts have already struck down Ag-Gag laws in Idaho and Utah as unconstitutional.

Today’s decision holds that the plaintiffs have adequately alleged that the Iowa Ag-Gag law violates the First Amendment The decision allows the lawsuit to move forward; the plaintiffs are ultimately seeking a declaration that the statute is unconstitutional.

The central objective of Iowa’s Ag-Gag law is to prevent whistleblowers from collecting information about these facilities and distributing that information to the public. The animal agriculture industry lobbies to pass these laws in order to hide cruel practices and violations of laws designed to protect animals, employees and consumers. Iowa’s Ag-Gag law has succeeded in hindering free speech and stamping out exposés of the animal agriculture industry. In the years leading up to the passage of the law in 2012, there were at least ten undercover investigations of factory farms in Iowa. Since the law’s passage, there have been zero.

Undercover investigations are one of the few ways for the public to receive critical information about animal agriculture operations. A 2012 consumer survey conducted by Purdue University’s Department of Agricultural Economics and Department of Animal Sciences found that the public relies on the information gathered and presented by animal protection groups and investigative journalists more than they rely on industry groups and the government combined.

The decision is available upon request.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are the Animal Legal Defense Fund, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, Bailing Out Benji, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and the Center for Food Safety.

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