Challenge to Iowa “Ag Gag” Law Moves Forward

Des Moines Register writer Donnelle Eller reported earlier this week that, “Groups challenging the constitutionality of Iowa’s so-called ‘ag gag’ law said they received an important legal green light this week with a U.S. district court ruling that lets the lawsuit proceed.

“A federal judge Tuesday denied Iowa’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit that claims the state’s ag gag law violates the First Amendment, protecting freedom of speech.

“A coalition of public interest groups challenging the law called the ruling a big win.”

The Register article noted that, “The ag gag law ‘clearly is a violation of Iowans’ First Amendment rights to free speech,’ said Rita Bettis, ACLU of Iowa’s legal director. ‘It has effectively silenced advocates and ensured that animal cruelty, unsafe food safety practices, environmental hazards and inhumane working conditions go unreported for years.’

The 2012 Agricultural Production Facility Fraud law makes it a crime for journalists and advocacy groups to go undercover at meatpacking plants, livestock confinements, puppy mills and other ag-related operations to investigate working conditions, animal welfare, food safety and environmental hazards, among other practices.

“Eric Tabor, Iowa’s chief deputy attorney general, said it’s early in the case’s litigation and declined to comment further.”

The Register article added that, “Ron Birkenholz, a spokesman for the Iowa Pork Producers Association, said the law was drafted to ‘provide meaningful protection to farmers’ while ‘respecting and protecting all citizens’ constitutional rights.’

“Senior U.S. District Court Judge James E. Gritzner dismissed the coalition’s claim that the law violated their rights to equal protection under the 14th Amendment, but he allowed their First Amendment challenges to stand.”

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