September 2, 2014

Branstad says “ag gag” law protects Iowa farmers (audio)

Governor Branstad says he took the right step in signing into law a bill that offers new protections to Iowa farmers and large-scale livestock operations. The new law creates a new penalty for people who get a job on a farm or in a confinement in order to go undercover to release details of the operation or free the animals.

“I know there are those people who don’t believe anybody should eat meat and those people that want to release livestock or mink or whatever,” Branstad told reporters this morning when questioned about the proposal. “Or we’ve even had them attack research at the University of Iowa.”

During a telephone interview this morning, Matt Dominguez of the American Humane Society said the law will subject “whistleblowers” to another legal obstacle.

“Whistleblowing employees have repeatedly exposed animal abuse, unsafe working conditions and environmental problems on today’s factory farms,” Dominguez said. “You know — footage of animals confined for their entire lives in crates so small they can’t even move an inch.”

Iowa’s governor suggested so-called “whistleblowers” won’t be prosecuted. 

“If somebody comes on somebody else’s property through fraud or deception or lying, that is a serious violation of people’s rights and people should be held accountable for that,” Branstad said. “That’s very different from a whistleblower that sees something that’s wrong, that’s there in an appropriate and legal manner.”

Other critics, like the Animal Legal Defense Fund, are lobbying officials in other states and cities around the country to ban the purchase of Iowa-raised food as a response to the state’s new law. And fast-food giant McDonald’s recently announced it would not buy pork from operations where sows are confined to stalls or crates. Governor Branstad signed the bill into law late Friday, and he told reporters this morning that he’s not concerned about a back-lash to Iowa-grown and raised products.

“Agriculture is an important part of our economy and farmers should not be subjected to people doing illegal, inappropriate things and being involved in fraud and deception in order to try to disrupt agricultural operations,” Branstad said, “so I think if people look at this objectively, this is a reasonable public policy for the State of Iowa and I think a number of other states will probably follow.” 

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals issued a statement after the bill passed both the Senate and House last week, saying “people all over the country will think Iowa ag has a lot to hide, and kids who love animals will probably demand Iowa meat be taken off cafeteria menus.” According to PETA, similar legislation has stalled in Illinois, Missouri, Florida, New York and Minnesota.

Follow this link to audio of Branstad’s weekly news conference, where he was asked about this topic.