A bill still pending in the Iowa Senate would restrict secret videotaping at Iowa livestock operations.
The Iowa House approved the bill in mid-March, but Senate Democrats have been writing amendments to make changes to address constitutional “free speech” concerns. The bill would make it a crime to produce, distribute, or even possess videos or photos taken without permission at an ag facility.
Senator Tom Rielly of Oskaloosa says there should be some protection for a person who uncovers abuse and turns the evidence over to law enforcement. But Rielly says animal rights activists sometimes use these kinds of videos to sway voters.
“In California they passed Proposition 2 which, by 2014, there are going to be cage-free chickens out there,” Rielly says. “And this is serious because over in Europe diseases that have been eradicated are starting to make a comeback because of ‘free range’ and ‘cage-free’ chickens. And that should be a concern for our future food supply.”
Rielly worked in an egg processing plant when he was in college and he says that showed him the importance of bio-security.
“I think agriculture needs to do a better job of educating the public on how we raise the food that we consume,” Rielly says, “and how we produce the food that we consume.”
Opponents of the legislation say it would intimidate whistle blowers, making it nearly impossible to expose animal abuse or unsanitary conditions that could threaten public health.
With the Iowa legislature in limbo as lawmakers struggle to agree on key spending and tax issues, it’s unclear if this proposal even will be considered in the senate yet this year.