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'Ag Gag' Bill Raises Questions about Legislation's Legality

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Food Safety & Food Safety page and our Iowa News page.
Two weeks ago, Gov. Terry Branstad signed House File 549, an "ag gag" bill that has made it illegal to expose incriminating undercover evidence of animal abuse.

This is a new concept brought to the issue of whistle-blowing for animal abuse in the agricultural industry and is being called a threat to the health and safety of consumers along with violating the freedom of the press.

Before this bill, what the farms had to protect themselves was "good old-fashioned trespassing," said Barbara Mack, who is a lawyer and associate professor of journalism and communication. "What I don't understand is why it's even necessary."

The issue became a nationwide topic after videos filmed by undercover activists hired as farm workers exposed apparent mistreatment on farms. One of the videos by Mercy for Animals highlighted Hy-Line International, the world's largest egg-laying hatchery in Spencer, Iowa.

The video is graphic and shows male chicks just hatched being put on conveyer belts, sorted from the females and tossed into grinders alive. The females are debeaked and put in crates to be shipped throughout the states.

The newly passed law makes it more difficult for activists to get access undercover to make such videos.

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