IOWA — A fourth U.S. state has been told that its ag gag law is a violation of free speech, after a judge ruled earlier this month that lying is protected under the U.S. constitution’s free speech amendment.
Federal senior judge James E. Gritzner ruled that animal rights activists can apply for jobs on Iowa farms, lie to get the job and then legally go undercover to secretly record life on the farm. Judges made similar rulings in Wyoming, Utah and Idaho. Five other states have ag gag laws.
“The right to make the kinds of false statements implicated by (the ag gag law) — whether they be investigative deceptions or innocuous lies — is protected by our country’s guarantee of free speech and expression,” the judge wrote.
Nine states had passed laws that made it illegal to trespass on farms and record sounds or images without the owner’s permission, or to look for a job with the intent of making those recordings. Activists have been fighting those laws in court and winning.
Farmers argued the law is needed to keep high biosecurity levels but the judge disagreed.
“Defendants have made no record as to how biosecurity is threatened by a person making a false statement to get access to, or employment in, an agricultural production facility,” wrote the judge.
The judge also ruled that there are already trespassing laws in Iowa designed to prevent people from entering property illegally.