A federal judge ruled this week that a new Iowa law seeking to criminalize the use of cameras in agricultural facilities is unconstitutional.
The judge said the law fails because it adds penalties to existing laws and said it therefore violates free speech protections provided by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Justice Stephanie Rose did rule that the court has observed that states can determine that certain facilities warrant legal protections, but she noted that Iowa’s law provides protections with respect to the exercise of a First Amendment right.
“The decision to single out this conduct is most plainly shown by Defendants’ (an animal rights organization) description of the Act as ‘enhancing the penalty for conduct that is already prohibited by law,’ Rose wrote.
“That is the issue with the law— it is enhancing a criminal penalty based on the exercise of speech (or a predicate component of speech). The law does not limit its reach to specific instances of using a camera, such as a peeping tom situation.
Rather, the Act only punishes a trespasser exercising a constitutional right.
Iowa’s first such law, which animal activists dubbed “ag gag,” was struck down in 2019. The second law was stymied in March 2022.
Ontario enacted legislation this year to curb animal activists from entering farms with the intent of disparaging the way farmers are treating their livestock and poultry. There has not yet been a judicial decision on this new law.