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Lawsuit Challenging Iowa's Ag-Gag Law Proceeds, State's Motion to Dismiss Denied

February 27, 2018
Center for Food Safety

Lawsuit Challenging Iowa's Ag-Gag Law Proceeds, State's Motion to Dismiss Denied

Advocates for Animals, Workers, Free Speech and Food Safety Take on Agricultural Giants, Following Victories in Utah and Idaho

DES MOINES, Iowa â?? Today the Federal District Court for the Southern District of Iowa denied Iowa's motion to dismiss a pending lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the state's Ag-Gag law. In October 2017, a coalition of public interest groups and journalists led by the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Iowa, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the Center for Food Safety, Public Justice and the Law Office of Matthew Strugar, filed the lawsuit. Iowa's Ag-Gag law criminalizes undercover investigations at factory farms, slaughterhouses, and puppy mills, effectively silencing advocates and ensuring animal cruelty, unsafe food safety practices, environmental hazards, and inhumane working conditions go unreported. The coalition argues Iowa's Ag-Gag law violates the First Amendment of the Constitution, which grants freedom of speech under the law. Federal courts have already struck down Ag-Gag laws in Idaho and Utah as unconstitutional.

Today's decision holds that the plaintiffs have adequately alleged that the Iowa Ag-Gag law violates the First Amendment. The decision allows the lawsuit to move forward; the plaintiffs are ultimately seeking a declaration that the statute is unconstitutional.

The central objective of Iowa's Ag-Gag law is to prevent whistleblowers from collecting information about these facilities and distributing that information to the public. The animal agriculture industry lobbies to pass these laws in order to hide cruel practices and violations of laws designed to protect animals, employees and consumers. Iowa's Ag-Gag law has succeeded in hindering free speech and stamping out exposés of the animal agriculture industry. In the years leading up to the passage of the law in 2012, there were at least ten undercover investigations of factory farms in Iowa. Since the law's passage, there have been zero.

Undercover investigations are one of the few ways for the public to receive critical information about animal agriculture operations. A 2012 consumer survey conducted by Purdue University's Department of Agricultural Economics and Department of Animal Sciences found that the public relies on the information gathered and presented by animal protection groups and investigative journalists more than they rely on industry groups and the government combined.

The decision is available upon request.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are the Animal Legal Defense Fund, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, Bailing Out Benji, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and the Center for Food Safety.

For more information please visit


About the Animal Legal Defense Fund
The Animal Legal Defense Fund was founded in 1979 to protect the lives and advance the interests of animals through the legal system. To accomplish this mission, the Animal Legal Defense Fund files high-impact lawsuits to protect animals from harm; provides free legal assistance and training to prosecutors to assure that animal abusers are punished for their crimes; supports tough animal protection legislation and fights harmful legislation; and provides resources and opportunities to law students and professionals to advance the emerging field of animal law. For more information, please visit

About Center for Food Safety
Center for Food Safety's mission is to empower people, support farmers, and protect the earth from the harmful impacts of industrial agriculture. Through groundbreaking legal, scientific, and grassroots action, we protect and promote your right to safe food and the environment. Please join our more than 900,000 consumer and farmer advocates across the country at Twitter: @CFSTrueFood, @CFS_Press

About PETA
Founded in 1980, PETA is the largest animal rights organization in the world, with more than five million members and supporters worldwide. PETA uses public education, cruelty investigations, celebrity involvement, protest campaigns, and other innovative tactics to spread the message that animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, use for entertainment, or to abuse in any other way. For more information, please visit

About the ACLU of Iowa
The ACLU of Iowa is a private, non-partisan organization that fights to advance civil liberties for all. It is the state affiliate of the national American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU prides itself in upholding everyone's civil liberties, no matter who they are or what they believe. We work to assure the rights of all Iowansâ??from atheists to devout Christians, from labor unions to businesspeople and moreâ??to make sure the constitutional rights of all are preserved. For more information, please go to

About Public Justice
Public Justice pursues high impact lawsuits to combat social and economic injustice, protect the Earth's sustainability, and challenge predatory corporate conduct and government abuses. For more information, visit

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