Criminal codes in Iowa and Utah were used this year to keep secrets on factory farms by threatening jail time for anyone working undercover and taking pictures or video of animals without permission.

But Iowa and Utah were not the first to adopt what we now call “ag-gag” laws. About 20 years ago, there was a similar push for these laws in farm states with very similar language adopted in North Dakota, Montana and Kansas.

This means there are at least five states that now make illegal the sort of undercover work conducted by several major animal welfare groups, which involves sending someone in as an employee to record what is actually going on.

In North Dakota, it is a class B misdemeanor to enter an animal facility and use or attempt to use a camera, video recorder, or any other video or audio recording device. It is defined as “unlawful interference with animal facilities” and as “prohibited activity.”  Violators face jail terms of 30 days.

Kansas’s law makes it  a class A, nonperson misdemeanor  to enter an animal facility that is not open to the public and take pictures or video. The law is part of the state’s “Farm Animal and Field Crop and Research Facilities Protection Act.”

Montana’s measure makes it unlawful to enter an animal facility to take pictures by photograph, video camera, or other means with intent to commit criminal defamation, and to enter an animal facility if the person knows entry is forbidden.

All three of these laws were passed in 1990 and 1991.

Now, after a 20-year lull,  there’s been a surge in the introduction of ag-gag bills and Iowa and Utah enacted new laws, meaning five states have imposed these restrictions.

Farm states have long made it a crime to mess with someone’s animals.  At least 28 states have laws on the books declaring it illegal to exercise control over animals or their facilities without permission, according to the Michigan State University College of Law’s Animal Legal & Historical Center, which tracks animal law.

In the last five years, animal welfare groups have sent members into large-scale farms as employees, who then videotaped incidents of animal cruelty and mistreatment.

States adopting ag-gag laws simply want to “silence whistleblowers,” according to Farm Forward, an Oregon-based group opposed to factory farms.   

The new Iowa and Utah laws are specifically written to block undercover whistleblowers.The Iowa law, for example, addresses obtaining employment under false pretenses as one element of a crime that could put the violator in jail for up to two years.

And the current crop of new ag-gag laws may not be over. So far, in 2012, the animal agriculture lobby has two wins, three losses going with five contests still outstanding.

Iowa and Utah enacted new laws, while ag-gag bills were killed in Florida, Illinois and Indiana.    Ag-gag bills remain pending in Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New York and Tennessee.

The animal agriculture lobby is having success in the current election year it did not experience last year when proposed video fans first resurfaced in four states.  Last year, Florida, Iowa, Minnesota and New York all rejected ag-gag bills.

Photo Courtesy of the Humane Society of the United States

  • JC

    I love all the scrutiny that Ag Gag legislation brings to this horrific business!
    The revelations behind Ag Gag legislation are just one of many reasons why the number of vegans has doubled in the US in less than 3 years. Here are two uplifting videos to help everyone understand why so many people are making this life affirming choice: and

  • TP

    Farmers are like everyone; some good,some bad.
    People by natural have to be watched in some fashion, thus the police force.
    Make sure we look at the hole picture before we push the first domino, are we worried about Bambi of child hunger or do we want to see ourselves on TV supporting some cause, makes good conversation at the next intellectual dinner party.

  • Wynann Brownell

    Again, farms of all kinds are being allowed to hide the truth and abuse of what goes on with animals and the food they send to market. This is an outrage and should be stopped immediately!

  • Chic

    The best way to stop this opaque production system is to boycott the producers. What we would need is a list of producers in the states that have ‘ag-gag’ laws. Withholding money reducing profits will get almost everyone’s attention.

    • I am in complete agreement with you. I recently read an article on line, but, didn’t save it, where a farmer or politician said it interferes with freedom of speech and won. So his freedom of speech is protrected but not vice-versa?

  • The only way to stop this is TO GO VEGAN. There is no “humane” way to go about this. Even companies that claim to be “humane” are guilty of engaging in the same cruelty. There is a lot of lobbying going on behind closed doors. For more info and confessions from former beef ranchers and other farmers, visit
    Not to mention, slaughtering animals (other than self-defense) is not humane. It’s ridiculous to look for humaneness in an act that is not humane to begin with. You cannot find it because it’s not there; it cannot be there. If there is a humane way to kill an animal, please tell me how I can kill you humanely. Can someone rob you humanely? Can someone rape you humanely? Can someone murder your loved ones humanely? A violent act is a violent act no matter what silly label you attach to it. The whole “humane” concept is a “feel good” marketing campaign; it’s to still keep you as a consumer so you can keep consuming animals with a clearer conscience but the reality remains to be the same for the animals that get slaughtered for no good reason.

  • Watch a cow about to get slaughtered make a run for her life:
    You think that cow cares about whether you will be gentle as you take its life away for your taste buds or not? No animal wants to die; no animal wants to be slaughtered.
    A goat that escaped from slaughter and made it:
    These are sentient beings that KNOW when death awaits them.
    A cow that knows it’s about to be slaughtered and is desperately trying to escape his/her faith:
    Once again, these are sentient-beings that know death awaits them so they don’t want to move ahead so they shock them (standard procedure) to get them to march to their own death.

  • This is why vegans do not eat eggs. This video is NOT a cleverly edited video; this is standard procedure they really don’t want us to know hence the “AG-GAG bill”:–faib7to
    This is why vegans do not eat cheese. Everything that involves animal products have unbelievable cruelty attached to it:
    Watch for free if you want to be awakened:
    An amazing lecture on veganism:
    Another amazing lecture on veganism (in several languages):
    Wanna go vegan but don’t know where to start?
    Want to build muscle on vegan-diet?
    Vegan athletes at work:
    So many people that think veganism is some elitist fad that costs a lot of money. It’s actually the opposite. Vegan diet costs less than what your current diet costs. This cab driver, who describes himself as “poor”, is a vegan, and he got his bodybuilder’s body by following a vegan diet:

  • Marcia

    Maybe some good may come out of these laws that attempt to hide the ugly facts and brutality of factory farming. I hope the dedicated undercover workers will continue. If any of them is discovered and prosecuted, then perhaps what is being covered up, that is, the cruelty to animals, will get a lot more attention than it ever has. Hopefully, more people will speak out and demand change. If this happens, then the laws will have backfired on the abusers attempt to “cover up.”

  • BB (California Bay Area)

    Iowa, Utah, North Dakota, Montana and Kansas. They may be afraid if anyone sees what happens before the eggs, milk and meat get to the store, we’d gag on it.

    • how can any person allow such cruelty just for money…it makes me so sick I could throw up.  How do these people look in the mirror or justify what they do,..animals have emotions, feel pain and bleed just as we would these monsters like someone to take their family pet (which all animals could be a family pet, including pigs etc) and do to them the same as what is done at these horrific farm factories.  and what kind of savages could work there,.no wonder this is such a frightening world…man will be judged on how they treat animals…that is a large banner I would love to put right in the government of these states that approve this torture

  • Then perhaps people should fight back by supporting franchisors who want to support local farmers. Instead, people would rather waste their time debating over a law that has already been passed. I find this law sad, pathetic and scary, because we will not know what Iowa is feeding the American people. People will keep eating at McDonalds because it is cheap, so why should i bother trying to explain.

  • Kris Williamson

    What’s wrong with you idiots? Who cares if anyone goes vegan or not? The issue isn’t about what we should eat. It’s about what we have the freedom to say or or what information we have the right to know. Take your arms from around the tree you’re hugging for a moment to understand the more serious aspect of this situation. I’m alarmed to not find anything in this story about legal challenges to what are clearly violation of freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

  • Reply to Kris Williamson

    Kris, you’re THE idiot. Even with so called freedom of speech and press, there is still unbelivable cruelty going on behind the closed doors of slaughterhouses. That’s what we’re focusing on. Even if recording undercover videos were legal in these 5 states, isn’t the act of slaughter still a cruel act in its very nature? Tell me how you can make slaughter “humane”. You’re the very idiot you called others for not being able to look at the big picture. By your logic, if slavery was still going on, not being able to record the abuse, torture, suffering, exploitation and pain slaves go through day in and day out would be a violation of freedom of speech and press but the fact that they are slaves would not be a problem for you at all. The issue here is bigger. And going vegan is the perfect response to the people who are trying to take our freedom of speech and press not to lose profit.

  • Missouri’s House just passed one of the worst ag-gag laws. It would be nice if it were defeated in the Senate, but I’m not hopeful.
    And then there’s this:

  • I had not realized that so many states have passed this law.

  • SeaShepherd96

    Does Texas have some form of ag gag law(s) in place?

  • Marcia M.,0,3908830.story#axzz2tjW6CJqE
    This link shows why there needs to be transparency at animal farms. Of course, they would like to keep this twisted conduct of their employees away from the public. Animals should be treated humanely, they should be kept healthy and when your employees are screwing the dairy cattle you bet they want a Big Ag Gag bill passed through. If the public, the consumer wants to eat dairy and meat, they have every right to know that the animals are not under stress and torment to assure a quality product. That requires these farms to be monitored and audited with surprise visits. The state mandates surprise sampling visits to ensure the safety of children in their care, it should apply to our food suppliers as well. You would think a quality farm would want the best for their livestock, and would want them to receive humane treatment. Obviously, since they don’t want anyone checking up on them they would rather play the cover up and hide it game. Contact your state legislators, let them know you want transparency and the Ag Gag is exactly that, it is designed to gag whistleblowers and it does not protect the consumer who buys the product and that you do not support animal abuse!

  • Mark

    We need legislation that would allow us to disconnect our tax dollars from supporting the agriculture budgets of these states that hide food safety and humane treatment of livestock from we the people!