Despite a fierce campaign to stop the measure, Iowa became the first state Friday to officially make it a crime to enter a farming operation with the intent to secretly videotape animal abuse. Undercover footage filmed by animal rights groups during the past several years have been instrumental in exposing cases of cruelty to farm animals.
Governor Terry Branstad signed the law in a private ceremony. Iowa is the country’s leading producer of pork and eggs and the governor is known to have “strong ties to the state’s agricultural industry.”
Those in the industry see the new law as a way to fight back against animal activists who “aim to damage” food production operations.
Rep. Annette Sweeney, R-Alden and the House Agriculture Committee chairperson said, “This is a very, very positive step for agriculture. For right now, I think it’s a start to realize that we are serious about protecting the agriculture that we have in our state.”
Sen. Matt McCoy, D-Des Moines, who tried to defeat the bill called it a “hollow victory” because his supporters were able to water-down the original version of the law.
The original legislation would have made it illegal to record video or audio tape an agriculture operation without permission from the farmer or business owner. The new version only objects obtaining access to the facility in a fraudulent manner.
The Iowa law makes it a misdemeanor to lie on a job application to get access to a farm facility. The crime would be punishable with up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $1,500.
Sen. Joe Seng, D-Davenport and a veterinarian who sponsored the bill, said the compromise discourages animal activists from sneaking onto farms, but does not stop a legitimate employee from reporting animal abuse.
Currently seven other states are considering similar laws: Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New York and Utah.
The following is a selection of quotes from Gail Eisnitz’s groudbreaking work Slaughterhouse: The Shocking Story of Greed, Neglect, and Inhumane ...
“He’ll kick them [hogs], fork them, use anything he can get his hands on. He’s already broken three pitchforks so far this year, just jabbing them. He doesn’t care if he hits its eyes, head, butt. He jabs them so hard he busts the wooden handles. And he clubs them over the back.”
“I seen guys take broomsticks and stick it up the cow’s behind, screwing them with a broom.”
“I’ve drug cows till their bones start breaking, while they were still alive. Bringing them around the corner and they get stuck up in the doorway, just pull them till their hide be ripped, till the blood just drip on the steel and concrete. Breaking their legs… And the cow be crying with its tongue stuck out. They pull him till his neck just pop.”
“Pigs on the kill floor have come up and nuzzled me like a puppy. Two minutes later I had to kill them – beat them to death with a pipe.”
“Sometimes I grab it [a hog] by the ear and stick it right through the eye. I’m not just taking its eye out, I’ll go all the way to the hilt, right up through the brain, and wiggle the knife.”
“Only you don’t just kill it, you go in hard, push hard, blow the windpipe, make it drown in its own blood. Split its nose. A live hog would be running around the pit. It would just be looking up at me and I’d be sticking, and I would just take my knife and – cut its eye out while it was just standing there. And this hog would just scream.”
“These hogs get up to the scalding tank, hit the water and start screaming and kicking. Sometimes they thrash so much they kick water out of the tank… Sooner or later they drown. There’s a rotating arm that pushes them under, no chance for them to get out. I’m not sure if they burn to death before they drown, but it takes them a couple of minutes to stop thrashing.”
“I could tell you horror stories… about cattle getting their heads stuck under the gate guards and the only way you can get it out is to cut their heads off while they’re still alive.”
“I’ve seen live animals shackled, hoisted, stuck, and skinned. Too many to count, too many to remember. It’s just a process that’s continually there. I’ve seen shackled beef looking around before they’ve been stuck. I’ve seen hogs [that are supposed to be lying down] on the bleeding conveyor get up after they’ve been stuck. I’ve seen hogs in the scalding tub trying to swim.”
How could it be criminal to attempt to document ABUSE?? Animal abuse should be the crime, not documenting it! Money talks. The factory farm lobby is VERY powerful. Disgusting. We should boycott ALL products coming from Iowa, whether they come from factory farms or not.
As though employees are going to report animal abuse, they live in cloud cuckoo land!
Why don't they pass laws that prevent animal cruelty instead but they don't want to because to them an animal is not even an animal it is just a commodity!
The worst part is that there ARE laws against animal cruelty, but it turns out that documenting animal cruelty is worse of a crime than perpetrating it, for these heartless people! It's all about profits. It's morally disgusting.
For me, Utah conjures up visions of Mormons and dramatic canyons, not factory-scale facilities stuffed with pigs and hens. Yet the state's western half contains four counties with "extreme" concentration of such facilities, and three more that rank as "severe," according to Food and Water Watch. One of those counties, Beaver, is home to Four Circle Farms, a subsidiary of hog giant Smithfield Foods. Four Circle churns out a million pigs per year in just 40 buildings.
Perhaps emboldened by their peers in Iowa, Utah's state legislators have passed a law that would help shield such farms from scrutiny. Like the recently passed Iowa law, the Utah bill would prohibit people from GETTING JOBS at farm facilities under false pretenses—an attempt to stop animal welfare groups from documenting conditions there.
The Iowa and Utah bills represent a new wave of attempts to protect the meat industry from the scrutiny of watchdog groups. The first wave of bills, which floated around state houses throughout farm country last year, sought to criminalize sneaking cameras into factory farms. Those bills failed because of concerns about constitutionality, Amanda Hitt, executive director of the Government Accountability Project's Food Integrity Campaign (FIC), told me.