Lawmakers Rush Ag-Gag Bill in Iowa

Earlier this year, Iowa’s first “ag-gag” law was struck down by the federal courts for violating the First Amendment. Iowa’s newest ag-gag bill was introduced in early March, and within 10 days, legislators had hurried the bill to the governor’s desk. We want you to make your voice heard by contacting the Iowa Tourism Office to let them know that you won’t support a state that shields animal abusers.


In 2011, a Mercy For Animals investigator went undercover for two months at an Iowa Select Farms plant. The shocking abuse documented includes sick and injured pigs left to slowly die without veterinary care, mother sows confined for nearly their entire lives to metal crates so small the animals couldn’t turn around, and workers throwing piglets across the room.

Reaction to our investigation was swift: National grocers, including Kroger and Safeway, suspended sales from Iowa Select Farms. The investigation drew widespread media scrutiny and raised critical awareness of the standard industry practice of crating mother sows. Articles appeared in papers ranging from the local Sioux City Journal to national outlets, such as The Wall Street Journal.

What did Iowa do in response to the horrors we uncovered? In 2012 they criminalized our investigations, creating one of the first ag-gag laws. The sponsor of the law, Representative Annette Sweeney, went so far as to equate animal abuse with constitutionally protected filming: “The person taking the video is just as guilty as the person doing the purported abuse.”

Animal rights and consumer groups challenged the constitutionality of the law, arguing that it violated the First Amendment’s dual guarantees of free speech and a free press. After years of legal battles, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Iowa ruled the law unconstitutional.

But just weeks after the law was struck down, Iowa legislators introduced a new version with the same goal as the original: to stop investigators from documenting and exposing animal cruelty. This new law aims to stop exposure of unsavory and illegal practices at the worst farms in Iowa and deprive Iowa citizens of the right to know how animals in their state are treated.