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Iowa’s Legislature – Creating Uproar

April 17, 2011

The Iowa legislature is certainly making waves in the news. HF 589 / SF 431 was introduced by Annette Sweeney, and makes, among other things, videotaping and photography on farms illegal unless you have consent.


Many organizations are not happy with the bill, claiming it’s unconstitutional, and that it would take away first amendment rights. Many opposed to the bill say that this is “big ag’s attempt to cover up horrific factory farm practices.” Others say that the undercover operatives are needed and are doing everything for the animals.

My two cents worth

I often get upset when a video is released shows agriculture in a negative way. If it is showing animal abuse, I get upset with the workers, but if it’s showing something entirely different, a video that looks to be extremely edited, and not horrific at all to someone involved in agriculture, than I become upset.

A case against undercover videos

The Humane Society of the United States released a video showing ‘cruel practices’ to sows in gestation stalls. Those who visited the farm found something entirely different. In the video sows were screaming, pushing against the bars of their stalls, obviously in distress; however, hog producers all know that if you turn the lights on in the middle of the night, the sows will begin to squeal, wanting food. If you then leave, they will chew on the bars until their mouths are bloody, which is exactly what was seen in the HSUS video. Was it a coincidence this happened while an undercover worker was on the farm? I’ll let you decide.

Many journalists also don’t believe that gathering information while undercover is ethical either. Yes you could say that you are exposing a ‘horrific practice,’ but you are still undercover, and receiving that information in a false pretense.

So should the bill pass or not?

I still haven’t decided my stance on the bill, I do believe that people shouldn’t be able to enter a farm and pose as a worker, with the intent that they are only gathering negative information. Think of it this way, if someone came into your house as a babysitter and planted secret cameras, later releasing them after they showed you spanking your child, you would feel hurt, and misunderstood. Not only did the video not capture the full context of the act, but they also didn’t talk to you first, and try and get the entire story.

Final thoughts

My conclusion is this: I don’t believe a bill like this should be passed, mainly because it shouldn’t be needed. Unfortunately, it is, and until groups stop attacking agriculture for practices that they don’t understand, it should be illegal to enter someone’s property and take videos with the intent to destroy their farm and career.

As to those who are unhappy with not being able to see the insides of facilities, they have a right to be. Farmers should be allowing those who want to see their facilities inside of them. Granted those people who want to see what farmers do on a daily basis should have to shower in and out, wear different clothes and shoes, and have an open mind.

Modern agriculture is not the evil empire that it is made to be in the undercover videos. Moreover, producers should believe in the practices they use enough that they can allow people inside their facilities. As for HF 589 / SF 431, it’s up to those we elected to decide whether or not it should pass.

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