Iowa Legislature approved a bill last week making it the first state to criminalize clandestine or undercover activity used to collect footage of animal abuse occurring on factory farms. The decision has led to an outcry of concern from animal welfare groups, some of which have successfully aided in the criminal prosecution of abusers caught on tape acquired covertly.
The new measure would make lying on a job application for the purpose of obtaining undercover footage a serious misdemeanor, which would include a fine of up to $1,500 and no more than one year in prison. The penalty for the second offense would make the penalty an aggravated misdemeanor, accompanied with a fine up to $5,000 and the possibility of two years in prison.
Animal welfare groups, such as Mercy for Animals, have reacted to the decision with disdain. Undercover video obtained of inhumane chicken and hog conditions on Iowa farms has been instrumental in exposing animal abuse and neglect practices rampant in the industry that not only endanger the lives of the animals, but also the humans who eat them. [Update March 2, 2012: The organization has released a video response to the Iowa decision made entirely of footage obtained from Iowa factory farms.]
Approval of the bill comes on the heels of major announcements by McDonald's and Bon Appétit—two of the nation's largest food service operators—that recently vowed to begin sourcing pork products from facilities that do not employ gestation crates for pregnant pigs, which is considered to be one of the cruelest and inhumane practices still widely used in factory farming. Both companies have also made commitments to support suppliers eliminating battery cages used for egg-laying hens. Iowa is the nation's largest pork and egg producing state, with its farms housing tens of millions of pigs and chickens in confinement buildings.
Utah and Nebraska may be the next states to follow in the footsteps of the Iowa bill, making undercover videotaping illegal. Florida and Minnesota rejected similar bills last year.
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