Ernest Dempsey — If nothing else, the government can and does create legal slots to fuel animal foods industry, usually at the expense of animal safety and proper care for their health. One such law passed a few days ago in Iowa is being decried by animal rights activists as ‘un-American’ and ‘dangerous’. Known as the Ag-Gag Bill, this law was passed by the Iowa Senate, on February 28, by a 40 to 10 majority. Nathan Runkle, Executive Director Mercy For Animals (MFA), joins me here to comment on this law which he condemns as being “out of step with most Americans` values”.
Ernest: Nathan, please tell us a little about the background of this Iowa’s ‘Ag-Gag Bill’?
Nathan: At the behest of the multi-billion dollar meat, dairy, and egg industries, pro-factory farm legislators have proposed bills in nine states to make criminals out of those who dare to expose consumers to the dangerous, illegal, or cruel practices at factory farms or slaughterhouses. In Iowa, this ‘Ag-Gag’ bill was proposed by Senator Tom Rielly (D-Mahaska) and State Representative Annette Sweeny (R-Alden). Sweeney operates a cattle operation and she is the former Executive Director of the Iowa Angus Association.
Ernest: So this bill is going to provide legal cover to the abuse of farm animals in Iowa?
Nathan: This bill keeps consumers in the dark, threatens public health, and hurts animals by shielding animal abusers from public scrutiny. It is a flawed and misdirected piece of legislation that 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.
Ernest: You said in a press statement that this bill has failed the American people? Do you think there is any legal course by which people may challenge this bill and demand to revoke it?
Nathan: There will almost certainly be legal challenges if this unconstitutional and un-American bill is passed. If this bill passes, factory farmers will be able to abuse animals with impunity. Without undercover investigations, there are no meaningful watchdogs protecting animals from egregious cruelty in these facilities. Rather than hiding their cruel practices, lawmakers should focus on ending them.
Ernest: Federal law fails when it comes to protection of farm animals against abuse or cruelty. And you pointed that Iowa has some of the weakest laws when it comes to animal protection. Why so?
Nathan: Shockingly, not a single federal law protects farmed animals from abuse or neglect during their lives on factory farms and Iowa specifically excludes farmed animals from anti-cruelty protection. The Animal Legal Defense Fund, which ranks animal protection laws in all 50 states according to 14 categories including penalties, exemptions, and law enforcement policies, has consistently ranked Iowa among the worst states for six years. Iowa lawmakers should be working to prevent and prosecute cruelty to animals, not make it harder to expose.
Ernest: What are the implications of the Ag-Gag Bill for investigators and whistleblowers who expose cruelty to farm animals?
Nathan: MFA is dedicated to exposing and preventing cruelty to farmed animals, and we will continue with our undercover investigations nationwide, legislative, and corporate policy reform campaigns, and consumer outreach, encouraging consumers to make compassionate food choices. The manner in which farmed animals are abused on factory farms could warrant animal cruelty charges if these facilities subjected dogs or cats to such intensive confinement, mutilations without painkillers, and merciless slaughter. As a civilized society, it’s our moral obligation to protect animals from needless cruelty.
Ernest: What state in America do you think has better legal protection for farm animals?
Nathan: After banning some of the cruelest forms of institutionalized animal abuse in existence, including the use of battery cages for egg-laying hens, gestation crates for mother pigs, and veal crates for calves, California is leading the country in animal protection issues. Iowa and other states should follow California’s lead by outlawing some of the worst forms of factory farm cruelty instead of trying to hide these practices from American consumers.
Ernest: Do you think an average person in Iowa can do something significant to make a difference in this otherwise disheartening situation?
Nathan: Absolutely! Iowans can call Governor Branstad at (515) 281-5211 and urge him to veto this dangerous bill. After that, concerned consumers can help expose what Big Ag is trying so desperately to hide by sharing MFA’s expose featuring investigations into Iowa’s factory farms in just the last few years. Finally, every time we sit down to eat, we can choose compassion over cruelty. Adopting a diet free of meat, dairy, and eggs is perhaps the single most important and powerful action you can take to prevent needless cruelty to animals. Visit ChooseVeg.com to learn more.
Ernest: Nathan, thank you for sparing me some of your precious time!
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Learn more about animal abuse and the investigation of Mercy for Animals into cases of cruelty to animals at the MFA website.