Livestock News

Perspective: How the ‘ag-gag’ law being struck down affects the industry


Yesterday, a federal judge in Des Moines, Iowa, struck down the “ag-gag” law, stating a conflict with the First Amendment right to freedom of speech. In 2012, Iowa — like many other ag based states — passed an “ag-gag” law to stop anyone from going undercover on farms,typically in the hiring capacity, to report and record the treatment of animals for media blasts against the whole ag industry. The passing of the law was seen as a win from many in the agriculture industry. In turn, many activists were upset by the law, saying it kept them from informing the public of inhumane acts. 

Fast forward to Wednesday’s ruling bringing defeat for the ag industry when the judge ruled the law unconstitutional. This once again opens up the ag industry to media attacks by groups like PETA, which can lead to many problematic situations. However, my biggest fear is this: They will try hard to find problems where there may not even be one.  

The Iowa Pork Producers Association said, “The ag-fraud law passed in 2012 was meant to provide meaningful protection to farmers from those who would use false pretenses to do harm to the farmers’ reputation and to their farm animals. We’re disappointed that the court did not agree with the way the law was written. It was never the intent of farmers to infringe on others’ constitutional rights; but we also were relying on the courts to help us protect our rights to lawfully conduct our businesses and care for our animals.”

“Iowa pig farmers will continue to properly care for their animals and provide safe and secure working conditions for their employees. And, they will fight those who try to destroy or attack their livelihoods one case at a time, if necessary.”

There is no denying that in the past, there have been painful stories come to light of the farming community. Instead of holding that operation accountable, the farming community gets dragged along in the process. That doesn’t happen in other business or financial sectors. There are things that happen in businesses all across the country — embezzlement, bank robberies  — but does that mean all companies are untrustworthy? Of course not! Not every bank is going to get robbed, not every CFO is dirty, just like the folks who raise livestock. It’s a safe bet that more than 99 percent of ranchers out there are treating their livestock with the utmost care. It is not only better for the animal’s health and welfare but that also crosses over to the farmer’s bottom line. Doing what is good for the animal is also good for the farmer. Don’t judge the group by an isolated bad apple.

Even if the ag community was able to be completely transparent showing 100 percent of their operation — which they strive to do — that would not be enough for the activist trying to find the one hiccup in the operation. My advice: Talk to farmer, a rancher. Talk to someone at the grocery store who looks confused in the meat aisle. Have one-on-one conversations! That is the only way people are going to be able to truly see the truth, by seeing you. 

My question lies here for the activist: What is wrong with free, truthful speech? Why go undercover when you could just ask for a tour? Maybe that is just me being naive. 

My thoughts for those in the industry: If you have nothing to hide, this new ruling will not harm or disrupt your operation.

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