Iowa lawmakers seek to penalize animal-rights activists

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The Iowa state Senate voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday to impose penalties on animal rights activists caught trying to get a job at a farm or animal production facility in order to gather evidence such as cruelty to animals.

Senator Joe Seng, a Democrat, said animal rights activists with an agenda to expose conditions inside livestock confinements can expose the animals to disease.

"People are trying to get into these places, saying they're a plumber or they're this or that, they're going to take care of your livestock with no intention of that whatsoever. They're trying to bring down this business," Seng said.

The Senate voted 40 to 10 to charge people caught in those situations with a serious misdemeanor.

The few opponents of the proposed law said it would turn whistleblowers exposing legitimate complaints into criminals at the expense of public health.

The attempt to legislate penalties follows a rash of animal rights activists -- led by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) -- infiltrating what they call "factory farms" including chicken and egg, hog and cattle production and processing facilities.

In one recent example, McDonald's stopped buying from Sparboe, an egg supplier for its McMuffin sandwiches, after an undercover investigation by animal rights group Mercy For Animals found dead hens in cages and living chicks being discarded in plastic bags with dead ones. Sparboe unwittingly hired a Mercy For Animals activist to work at its facility.

Animal rights activists and consumer groups have recently won a string of victories against so-called factory farms.

Earlier this month, McDonald's said it asked pork suppliers to phase out the use of crates confining sows while they are raising piglets.

Also last year, the Humane Society and U.S. egg producers agreed to work together to essentially double the size of the cages that the 280 million hens involved in U.S. egg production spend their lives in.

Alarmed by the activists, the Iowa House of Representatives last year voted to establish a prison sentence of up to 10 years for people caught going into a livestock confinement facility to take pictures or video of the animals and those who are caring for the livestock.

Members of the Iowa House said that chamber is likely to accept the Senate bill establishing the new penalties.

PETA could not immediately be reached for comment on the proposal.

(Editing by Greg McCune)


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Terry ward    
Pa  |  February, 29, 2012 at 03:23 PM

Woo hoo.. I can see it all now. Whistleblower breaks law. Iowa spends gazillions of dollars of taxpayer moola prosecuting whistleblower under an unconstitutional law. Trial lawyers put down payments on beachfront property in the Hamptons.

Matt Marin    
Newcastle  |  March, 01, 2012 at 01:42 AM

It's hardly infiltrating to "bring down a business," but rather observing illegal cruelty or environmental pollution and blowing the whistle to authorities for public benefit. Is THAT what the so-called ethical businesses are afraid of? If they were operating legally, they'd have web cams installed and let the public see for themselves what a great operation they have. Otherwise, they're sleazy criminals and don't want any light on their illegal activities. IOWA is going backwards if this passes.

Bill Hershberger    
Troy, Ohio  |  March, 02, 2012 at 05:25 AM

Whistleblower !? how about liars, I think I would scren employees and contractors a lot closer, not because have anything to hide but because I have rights too as a landowner and business man. If you have never run a farm maybe you should "walk a mile" before judging. Really if you want to stop people from eating meat and using animal products just say so instead of acting like terrorists. Domestic farm animals are not pets and they are not people!! I find animal rights activists and their tactics disgusting.

SD  |  March, 02, 2012 at 05:08 PM

Between outright terrorists lurking with HSUS and 'friends', and the ignorance of facts of animal science among the general populace, not to mention the ignorance of actual animal welfare, it would be foolish for farmers to install videos for all to watch at their demand. Too many people do not have a clue of what is beneficial or what is harmful to farm animals. If you don't believe that, just read comments on these ag sites by those who have no knowledge about agriculture!!!

Idaho  |  March, 04, 2012 at 06:54 PM

Big mistake. All a law like this does is give fuel to the activists that modern farming has something to hide. A better plan might have been to criminalize the taking/producing of false or purposely misleading video. Now it just looks like agriculture cannot withstand scrutiny.

Gayle Brown    
Detroit, Michigan  |  March, 05, 2012 at 09:30 PM

Lets boycott the buyers of the hog meat

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