Yesterday, the Iowa Senate adjourned for the year without passing legislation to make it a crime for an unauthorized individual to take pictures or video of animals on farms. The bill had passed the House weeks ago, and it was pending before the full Senate after Senate Agriculture Committee approved it. With Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad having expressed his support for it, only the full Senate could stop the measure from being enacted into law. The HSUS and an enormous coalition of organizations and Iowa citizens opposed the legislation, along with most of Iowa’s daily newspapers, which affirmed the view that the public has a right to know how animals are treated before they are made into food.

Hens in cramped cages at an Iowa egg factory farm,
documented by a 2010 HSUS investigation.

Lawmakers in Florida, Minnesota, and New York considered but did not enact bills similar to Iowa’s. So it’s the fourth flame-out this year of so-called “ag-gag” bills, which emerged as a collective legislative reaction to a series of investigations at confinement operations for pigs, chickens, and veal calves and several slaughterhouses and auction yards. The most storied investigation–of spent dairy cows at the Hallmark/Westland slaughter plant–is recounted in detail in The Bond.

Just this week, Mercy for Animals, a small but tenacious animal advocacy organization, released footage of the systematic mistreatment of pigs at Iowa Select Farms, especially the extreme confinement of sows in gestation crates. Costco and several other major grocers have announced that they are suspending their relationships with Iowa Select and its affiliates because of the callous animal handling and other harsh behaviors they saw on tape.

The public has an emerging interest in connecting to its food supply, and it’s vital that the American people be allowed a front-seat view of what’s happening on factory farms. If the industry won’t show what’s happening, then it’s important for animal protection groups and journalists to throw back the curtain.