Iowa's attempt to ban undercover videographers from documenting animal cruelty is merely the latest battle in an ongoing all-out war
Next time you drive through Iowa farm country, you may want to put away your camera. Earlier this year, the state proposed a new piece of legislation, House File 589, that would make it a crime to videotape, audio record, or in any way document a crop or animal facility without the prior consent of the owner. Anyone who produces, possesses, or distributes an unauthorized recording would face hefty fines, jail time, or both. The proposed law, an amendment to Iowa Code 717A, passed the Iowa House by a wide margin. It recently stalled in the Senate, but it will most likely be taken up again months from now in the state's next legislative session: as Iowa Representative Jim Lykam recently noted, "I'm sure that somebody will try to see if they can resurrect it." Most importantly, the underlying issue—industrial agriculture's fear that activists will continue to expose its practices—hasn't gone away.
Although HF 589 has been decried by animal welfare, food transparency, and civil rights groups, it has galvanized large-scale agricultural entities—from multinational corporations like Monsanto and DuPont to influential statewide organizations like the Iowa Poultry Association. The measure is a backlash against the undercover sting operations that constantly threaten factory farmers and the commodity crop growers who supply their feed. In recent years, activists have documented routine abuse and horrifying conditions at large farms in Iowa, Texas, Minnesota, California, Maine, Ohio, and elsewhere. Easily disseminated through the Internet, these startling and often graphic videos can result in independent audits, fines, and even criminal charges.