On 8th January 2024, a three-judge panel of the 8th US Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis, Missouri, revived Iowa’s Ag-Gag laws that had been struck down by a lower court. The effect of this would be substantially increased financial penalties and jail time for individuals who surreptitiously record videos and photos on private property — such as animal rights investigators.
The panel reversed a lower court’s 2022 decision striking down the law, but stopped short of saying whether the law would be unconstitutional when applied to the animal rights groups challenging it that said they record videos of the conditions at animal farms to raise public awareness. The 8th Circuit also revived a law prohibiting applicants from including material lies on employment applications when they intend to get a job to cause harm to the employer’s interests, reversing another lower court ruling in favour of the animal rights organizations that challenged the law.
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 effectively establishing the crime of “agricultural production facility trespass.” It was struck down on appeal as unconstitutional the same year when animal rights groups, including the Animal Legal Defense Fund and Food and Water Watch, claimed in their 2021 lawsuit that the law would deter protesters from filming animal cruelty at industrial animal farms. However, the US appeals court has now revived it.
David Muraskin, an attorney representing the animal rights groups, said they will continue to fight, and that “The law might be applicable to some, but it is unconstitutional as applied to these plaintiffs.”