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Iowa quietly passes its THIRD Ag-Gag bill after constitutional challenges

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The latest bill would create a new crime, 'food operation trespass,' for anyone who enters a location without permission where a 'food animal' is kept or where meat is sold or processed.

ALLEEN BROWN: Iowa legislators quietly passed a bill on Friday to increase penalties for animal rights activism that has targeted the factory farming industry. Debates in both the state House and Senate were followed rapidly by votes in favor of the legislation. The bill now awaits the governor’s signature.

“The intent is to silence whistleblowers and those that would expose animal welfare abuses,” said Adam Mason, the state policy director for Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, which has fought two previous ag-gag laws in Iowa courts… The latest version was buried at the bottom of an agriculture bill that largely addressed coronavirus-related concerns…

The latest bill would create a new crime, “food operation trespass,” for anyone who enters a location without permission where a “food animal” is kept or where meat is sold or processed. Animal rights activists have repeatedly published damning footage of Iowa farms that reveals sick or wounded animals and overcrowded conditions. In some cases, such footage has been captured via undercover investigations in which an activist obtains a job at a factory farm; in others, activists have entered properties surreptitiously to film poor conditions.

A first-time trespasser would now face up to two years of incarceration and a fine of up to $6,250. If they entered a farm without authorization a second time, they could be charged with a felony carrying up to five years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to $7,500.

This is the third time Iowa legislators have passed a so-called ag-gag bill, a type of legislation named for its ability to stifle free speech about agricultural facilities. The first version was overturned on First Amendment grounds in January 2019, and the second was put on hold while a constitutional challenge moves through the courts…

Iowa isn’t alone in using legislation to criminalize animal rights activism and whistleblowing. For more than a decade, the American Legislative Exchange Council, an organization that links industry lobbyists with state lawmakers, has promoted a model ag-gag bill. More than two dozen states have introduced versions of the bill, and in half a dozen states, they remain law. In Idaho, Utah, Kansas, and Wyoming, ag-gag laws have been overturned as unconstitutional. SOURCE…

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