| DES MOINES, Iowa, March 5
DES MOINES, Iowa, March 5 Iowa Governor
Terry Branstad signed a bill that could result in penalties on
animal rights activists who pose as employees or attempt to get
inside agricultural production facilities in other ways to
expose possible animal cruelty.
The law, in a major farming state, has outraged a leading
animal rights group known for its controversial tactics to
expose animal cruelty, People for the Ethical Treatment of
Animals (PETA), which said it may mount a court challenge and
threatened a possible boycott of Iowa.
The bill, labeled "Ag Gag" by opponents, was signed on
Friday but news of Branstad's approval did not emerge until
Iowa action could set a precedent for other agricultural
states as it is the largest U.S. producer of corn and soybeans,
has the largest number of hogs and the sixth-largest cattle
"If somebody comes on somebody else's property through fraud
or deception or lying, that is a serious violation of people's
rights and people should be held accountable for that," Branstad
told reporters on Monday.
The adoption of penalties in Iowa follows a series of cases
where animal rights activists gained entrance to what they call
"factory farms," including chicken and egg, hog and cattle
production and processing facilities.
In one recent example, McDonald's stopped buying from egg
supplier Sparboe after an undercover investigation by the animal
rights group Mercy for Animals found dead hens in cages and live
chicks discarded in plastic bags along with dead one. Sparboe
had unwittingly hired a Mercy activist to work at its facility.
Such actions have also prompted food companies to reconsider
suppliers who confine hens laying eggs in small cages and sows
in crates while they are nursing piglets.
"This is going to come back to haunt Iowa agriculture more
than they could ever imagine," said Dan Mathews, PETA's senior
vice president. "Iowa has singled itself out as the state with
the most to be ashamed of and I don't think that is a very
strong message to send to consumers."
Branstad said the new law would not affect whistleblowers,
employees who see something and report it.
"Agriculture is an important part of our economy and farmers
should not be subjected to people doing illegal, inappropriate
things and being involved in fraud and deception in order to try
to disrupt agricultural operations," Branstad said.
(Writing by David Bailey; Editing by Greg McCune and Philip