On Friday, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad signed into law a bill designed to thwart activists who go undercover to report animal abuse. This makes Iowa the first state in the country to pass such a law; Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New York and Utah are considering them.
Undercover investigations, including videos and photographs, are a principal tool used by activists of all stripes to document abuse cases and have led to legislative reforms, prosecutions and even facility closures around the country. In December, state authorities raided a Butterball turkey farm in North Carolina and filed charges against six employees and an official with the North Carolina Department of Agriculture, based on investigation by animal welfare group Mercy for Animals.
Iowa’s House File 589 focuses on how activists gain access to facilities and what they do there. Of course, it is already illegal for activists to tresspass on any facility, which is often how documentation occurs. The bill, however, makes it a crime to lie to gain access to the facility, using the following wording:
Agricultural production facility fraud. 1. A person is guilty of agricultural production facility fraud if the person willfully does any of the following: a. Obtains access to an agricultural production facility by false pretenses. b. Makes a false statement or representation as part of an application or agreement to be employed at an agricultural production facility, if the person knows the statement to be false, and makes the statement with an intent to commit an act not authorized by the owner of the agricultural production facility, knowing that the act is not authorized.