(NaturalNews) Capturing undercover footage of extreme animal abuse at factory farms is soon to be illegal in Iowa, thanks to the passage of a new bill that squelches First Amendment protections for agricultural whistleblowers. In one of the fastest legislative rush-throughs in history, the "American Heartland" state's House and Senate recently passed House File 589, also known as the "ag-gag" bill, which redefines undercover filming and various other whistle-blowing activities as "agricultural production facility fraud" punishable under the law.
Prior to the passage of the bill, which now sits on Republican Governor Terry Branstad's desk for signing, exposing the horrific conditions in many of Iowa's factory farms was a legally-protected free speech right. Once signed into law, however, H.F. 589 will make Iowa the first state in America to actively muzzle individuals from exposing the ugly truth about what takes place at chicken farms, animal processing plants, and even behemoth genetically-modified (GM) crops farms across the state.
"This flawed and misdirected legislation could set a dangerous precedent nationwide by throwing shut the doors to industrial factory farms and allowing animal abuse, environmental violations, and food contamination issues to flourish undetected, unchallenged and unaddressed," said Nathan Runkle, executive director of the Chicago-based animal rights group Mercy for Animals (MFA), to Food Safety News. "This bill is bad for consumers, who want more, not less, transparency in production of their food."
Without undercover investigations, the horrors of the factory food industry would never see the light of day
Undercover investigations, of course, were responsible for shutting down Hallmark and Westland, a California-based meat packing facility where extreme and highly-disturbing animal abuse was taking place on a regular basis. The company, which was eventually shut down thanks to undercover video footage captured by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), had been supplying tainted meat to public school lunchrooms across the U.S. (http://www.naturalnews.com/028905_school_lunch_beef.html).
The sting that led to the ultimate demise of the wretched company responsible for this abuse, however, would not have been possible had an ag-gag bill similar to the one about to be passed in Iowa been in place in California at that time. In simple terms, H.F. 589 is an assault on free speech, and a clear maneuver by the filthy factory farm industry to shield its many horrors from public exposure.
"This law is un-American and a broad government overreach," added Runkle. "It seeks to shield animal abusers from public scrutiny and prosecute the brave whistleblowers who dare to speak out against animal cruelty, environmental pollution and corporate corruption."