I was born and raised in Des Moines, and I've always been proud
to be a Midwesterner. There's a clarity, a straightforwardness, a
candor and an honesty -- and a type of clear thinking -- that comes
from being from the Midwest.
That's why I was so disappointed to hear about a bill currently
in Iowa's Legislature that gives the impression that Iowa has something to
be ashamed of -- a dirty secret to hide.
House File 589 would make it
illegal to photograph farmed animals without first getting permission from
the farmer. What are they trying to hide? Do Iowa farms house really famous
animals like Miss Piggy and Babe and this law just seeks to protect them
If only. What they are trying to hide are the routine
violations of state and federal anti-cruelty laws that have been documented
in Iowa and across the country.
In 2008, my friends at PETA went
undercover at a Greene County factory farm that supplied pigs to Hormel. The
group found that workers were beating pigs with metal rods, sexually abusing
them with canes, jabbing clothespins into their eyes and more.
Because of PETA's investigation, six workers were charged with a total of 22
counts of livestock neglect and abuse. All of them admitted guilt. Pork
magazine called this case a "wake-up call" for the industry -- but three
years later, the industry is still hitting the snooze button.
bill has already passed the House and is currently being considered in the
If HF 589 becomes law, whistleblowers who try to expose
cruelty to animals in the meat, dairy or egg industries could be charged
with a misdemeanor or a felony, face criminal prosecution and be ordered to
pay heavy fines or even serve jail time. That's a harsher punishment than
the actual perpetrators of animal abuse receive, in many cases.
right to document cruelty to animals -- wherever it occurs -- is crucial in
helping local, state and federal officials enforce anti-cruelty laws.
Authorities can't be everywhere at once, and funding for enforcement of
anti-cruelty laws is sorely lacking in most places. What we need are more
cameras on factory farms, not fewer.
It seems to me that this odd
Iowa bill is a reaction to an animal agriculture bill in California a few
years ago. That bill didn't seek to circumvent laws by forbidding cameras,
it sought to address increasing concerns about how animals are treated in
the meat industry and establish more humane practices. And the bill passed
with overwhelming support from both conservatives and liberals.
Iowa legislators recognize that with more and more consumers demanding
better treatment of animals, they need to work to enforce and strengthen
laws, not criminalize the actions of those trying to expose illegal cruelty.
This post first appeared at the
Des Moines Register.