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For Immediate Release: April 27, 2011
Contact: Shakira Croce 202-483-7382
Des Moines, Iowa -- Cloris Leachman—a Des Moines native and PETA spokesperson—has penned an op-ed in today's Des Moines Register blasting Iowa House Bill (HB) 589, which, if passed, would criminalize undercover investigations of cruelty to farmed animals. In the op-ed, Leachman praises Midwestern forthrightness—and condemns the bill for giving the impression that Iowa has a "dirty secret to hide." Similar bills are pending in Minnesota and Florida and have been defeated in Ohio and Illinois.
"What are they trying to hide? Do Iowa farms house really famous animals like Miss Piggy and Babe, and this law just seeks to protect them from paparazzi?" writes Leachman. "If only. What they are trying to hide are the routine violations of state and federal anti-cruelty laws that have been documented in Iowa and across the country."
The anti-filming bills would prevent investigations like 2008 exposé of an Iowa pig farm, which resulted in the Greene County Sheriff filing 22 cruelty charges against farm employees. PETA's investigator recorded these employees beating pigs with metal gate rods, shoving a cane into a sow's vagina, kicking and hitting pigs in the face with the edge of a board, and jabbing clothespins into pigs' eyes. Leachman joins PETA in calling for more cameras on factory farms—not fewer.
The text of the op-ed follows. For more information, please visit PETA.org.
Animals Should Be Shot—With Cameras
I was born and raised in Des Moines, and I've always been proud to be a Midwesterner. There's a clarity, a straightforwardness, a candidness and an honesty—and a type of clear thinking—that comes from being from the Midwest.
That's why I was so disappointed to hear about a bill currently in Iowa's legislature that gives the impression that Iowa has something to be ashamed of—a dirty secret to hide. HF 589 would make it illegal to photograph farmed animals without first getting permission from the farmer. What are they trying to hide? Do Iowa farms house really famous animals like Miss Piggy and Babe, and this law just seeks to protect them from paparazzi? If only. What they are trying to hide are the routine violations of state and federal anti-cruelty laws that have been documented in Iowa and across the country.
In 2008, my friends at PETA went undercover at a Greene County factory farm that supplied pigs to Hormel. The group found that workers were beating pigs with metal rods, sexually abusing them with canes, jabbing clothespins into their eyes and more. Because of PETA's investigation, six workers were charged with a total of 22 counts of livestock neglect and abuse. All of them admitted guilt. Pork magazine called this case a "wake-up call" for the industry—but three years later, the industry is still hitting the snooze button.
Iowa's anti-filming bill has already passed the House and is currently being considered in the Senate. If HF 589 becomes law, whistleblowers who try to expose cruelty to animals in the meat, dairy or egg industries could be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony, face criminal prosecution and be ordered to pay heavy fines or even serve jail time. That's a harsher punishment than the actual perpetrators of animal abuse receive, in many cases.
Citizens' right to document cruelty to animals—wherever it occurs—is crucial in helping local, state and federal officials enforce anti-cruelty laws. Authorities can't be everywhere at once, and funding for enforcement of anti-cruelty laws is sorely lacking in most places. What we need are more cameras on factory farms, not fewer.
It seems to me that this odd Iowa bill is a reaction to an animal agriculture bill in California a few years ago. That bill didn't seek to circumvent laws by forbidding cameras—it sought to address increasing concerns about how animals are treated in the meat industry and establish more humane practices. And the bill passed with overwhelming support from both conservatives and liberals. I hope Iowa legislators recognize that with more and more consumers demanding better treatment of animals, they need to work to enforce and strengthen laws, not criminalize the actions of those trying to expose illegal cruelty.
Cloris Leachman attended Roosevelt High School in Des Moines and worked at the Register before embarking on a career in Hollywood, eventually winning an Oscar and multiple Emmy Awards. She is 84 and a longtime PETA supporter.
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