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UN-GAGGED: U.S. federal judge strikes down latest version of Iowa ‘Ag-Gag’ law

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Iowa’s state law threatening criminal penalties for trespassing on livestock facilities’ property for purposes of recording evidence of animal abuse violates free speech rights. The act of recording is a necessary predicate to produce this protected speech and is protected under the First Amendment.

ROX LAIRD: A federal judge in Des Moines held… that the latest version of Iowa’ so-called “ag-gag” law aimed at preventing animal rights groups and journalists from video recording conditions in livestock facilities violates the First Amendment. U.S. District Judge Stephanie Rose granted the animal rights groups’ motion for summary judgment, saying Iowa’s state law threatening criminal penalties for trespassing on livestock facilities’ property for purposes of recording evidence of animal abuse violates free speech rights.

“It is true that the Act does not prohibit the editing, publication, or distribution of recordings or photographs on trespassed property,” Rose wrote in reference to Iowa’s law. “But it restricts the capture of such recordings or photographs, rendering the remaining steps in the protected video production process impossible. The act of recording is a necessary predicate to produce this protected speech and is protected under the First Amendment”…

The ruling is the third time since 2017 that Iowa federal judges have struck down the state’s efforts to criminalize gathering evidence of animal abuse. The matter has also been addressed by the the Eighth Circuit, which held the original version of Iowa’s ag-gag law violated the First Amendment… The newest version of Iowa’s law makes it a crime for a person committing a crime of trespass to knowingly place or use a camera or electronic surveillance device that transmits or records images or data while on the private property. A first offense is an aggravated misdemeanor; a second or subsequent offense is a felony…

The complaint was filed last year by the Animal Legal Defense Fund, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and three other groups. “It is past time for the animal agriculture industry to acknowledge that consumers do not want to support an industry that is cruel to animals — and Iowa cannot infringe on our constitutional rights in order to hide abuse,” Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Stephen Wells said in a statement released Monday. “The state of Iowa continues to fail in its efforts to prohibit whistleblowers and undercover investigators from exposing the inhumane treatment of animals, worker safety concerns, and food-safety issues in factory farms and slaughterhouses”. SOURCE…

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