Iowa Ag-Gag Law Declared Unconstitutional

by Stuart McDonald

iowa ag-gag

After years of free speech suppression in Iowa, today a federal court has struck down the Iowa Ag-Gag law as unconstitutional.

Declared a violation of the first amendment by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa, this law, which criminalizes undercover investigations in animal agribusiness–including factory farms, slaughterhouses, and puppy mills–has been in place since 2012. Since the law was enacted, organizations have not been able to conduct the ever-more-needed undercover investigations and hold these cruel industries accountable.

This ban has been particularly limiting to animal protection efforts. Iowa is by far the country’s biggest producer of eggs and pork.


“Ag-Gag bills are the industry’s attempt to silence whistleblowers and investigators, while hiding egregious animal cruelty from the public. This ruling strikes down another unconstitutional law protecting the profit-driven meat industry and is a victory for consumers, who deserve transparency in where their food is really coming from.” –Mike Wolf, Compassion Over Killing Director of Investigations


In animal agribusiness, it is in the best interest of farms and corporations to keep their treatment of animals hidden from the public eye. Investigations by organizations like Compassion Over Killing have revealed rampant, gut-wrenching cruelties on farms across the United States.

In December of 2011–just before Governor Branstad signed the Iowa Ag-Gag bill into law in March 2012– a COK investigator revealed cruel treatment and confinement of pigs on an Iowa farm that supplied meat to Hormel. Our gut-wrenching footage showed barbaric practices that have been concealed by this Ag-Gag legislation in the years since, including extreme confinement in small and filthy gestation crates, carelessly performed castration and mutilation of piglets without anesthesia, countless sick or injured animals, and even forced cannibalism–where workers were feeding deceased piglets back to pigs.

These eye-opening investigations serve to keep consumers informed, as well as hold companies accountable for the unspeakable cruelties revealed on hidden camera.

After litigation led by the animal protection, food safety, and environmental groups, similar laws have been struck down in Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, and a fight against these unconstitutional laws is ongoing in North Carolina.

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