On 20th September 2023, lawyers for the US state of Iowa laid their arguments before the Eighth Circuit Appeals Court aiming to uphold two state ag-gag laws designed to prevent investigators from exposing what is going on in animal agriculture facilities. The state is defending its ag-gag laws that were ruled unconstitutional by the District Court for the Southern District of Iowa.
In 2012, Iowa passed its first Ag-Gag law coded Iowa Code § 717A.3A making it Illegal to “obtain access” to a facility “by false pretences” and to obtain employment based on false representations while intending to commit an act not authorized by the employer. However, a 2021 ruling by the Eighth Circuit found it partially unconstitutional. Specifically, it found that § 717A.3A(1)(a) (access provision) was constitutional but § 717A.3A(1)(b) (employment provision) was unconstitutional. The animal agriculture lobby did not give up, so in 2019 Iowa passed another Ag-Gag law coded Iowa Code § 717A.3B making it illegal to enter a facility or gain employment under “false pretences” while intending to harm the owner or its operations (effectively establishing the crime of “agricultural production facility trespass.”). However, it was struck down on appeal as unconstitutional the same year.
Again, that did not stop the efforts of the industry so in 2020 the Iowa Code §716.7A was passed making it Illegal to enter or remain on the property of a food operation without consent, and in 2021 the Iowa Code § 727.8A was also passed making it illegal to knowingly place or use a camera or other electronic surveillance device that records images or data. The latter was ruled unconstitutional by the District Court for the Southern District of Iowa. On 26th September 2022, US District Judge Stephanie Rose struck down this ag-gag law in a lawsuit filed on 10th August 2021 by a group of animal protection organizations (Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, Bailing Out Benji, Food & Water Watch, the Animal Legal Defense Fund and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). Now the state of Iowa is trying to get this law reinstated at the Eighth Circuit Appeals Court,
Deputy Attorney General Leif Olson told the panel of judges that trespassers cannot cloak their illegal actions in the practice of journalism. In addition to appellate Judge Colloton, who was appointed by President George W. Bush, the panel included U.S. Circuit Judges Jonathan Kobes and L. Steven Grasz, both appointed by President Donald Trump. The court did not say when a ruling would be issued.