While cities across America saw thousands of people standing up against years of systemic racism and police brutality, Iowa lawmakers saw an opportunity to pass a bill increasing penalties against animal rights activists quietly. Both the House and Senate rapidly passed the law following brief debates, and now it awaits Governor Kim Reynolds’ signature.
This bill creates a new crime, “food operation trespass,” targeting anyone who enters an area where “food animals” are kept or where meat is processed or sold without explicit permission. Animal rights activists have repeatedly revealed shocking footage of the conditions that animals are forced into factory farms throughout the state. Overcrowding, wounded, and dead animals amongst the living are some examples of the horrible conditions found on some farms that have been exposed by activists.
Activists have uncovered such footage by employing undercover investigations by gaining employment on the farms, while others have obtained these images by entering properties without permission. The new legislation would punish first-offense trespassers with a fine up to $6,250 and up to two years of jail time, and a second offense would carry felony charges with incarceration up to five years and a fine up to $7,500.
This is not the first time Iowa’s lawmakers have enacted such legislation. The first attempt was overturned as a violation of First Amendment rights in 2019, while the second received a hold while constitutional challenges made their way through the court system.
That’s what makes this latest attempt so nefarious. Legislators buried this at the end of an agriculture bill that widely addressed COVID-19 related issues. At the same time, media and public attention was widely focused on the protests against police brutality and systemic racism. The bill was supported by the Iowa Pork Producers Association, which lobbied on its behalf, thought the ACLU of Iowa, Food and Water Watch, and Iowa Broadcaster Association lobbied against the legislation.
Animal Rights activists launched Project Counterglow, which mapped some 27,000 animal agriculture facilities and farms. The project aimed to shine a spotlight on farms where the worst offenses occurred and provide public transparency on an industry that has used secrecy and deception to keep the public from seeing the abusive practices employed by factory farms.
While the battle between lawmakers, lobbyists, and activists will undoubtedly continue, it’s clear that the economic interests behind factory farms will do everything they can to keep their industry shrouded and the public from seeing the overcrowded, cruel conditions they force animals into.