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Animal welfare group seeks undercover investigator for Iowa

By Staff | Feb 15, 2019



Following the decision to strike down Iowa’s “ag gag” law, a California-based company has posted a job application online for an undercover investigator based in Iowa.

In January, a federal judge ruled that the 2012 Agricultural Production Facility Fraud law violated the First Amendment’s free speech protection.

The law considered it a crime for advocacy groups and members of the media to go undercover at agriculture operations such as livestock confinements and meatpacking plants to investigate the welfare of animals kept there, along with any potential safety issues and other concerns.

The Iowa law classified a violation as a serious misdemeanor to use false pretense or statements to obtain access to a farm production facility or to obtain employment. A second conviction in violation of this law would be considered an aggravated misdemeanor.

Not long after that ruling, a job was posted on indeed.com by the Los Angeles-based animal welfare group Mercy For Animals, seeking an undercover investigator in Iowa.

The position would work at “factory farms, hatcheries, livestock markets and slaughterhouses in order to document conditions.”

“Investigators must be prepared to witness unimaginable cruelty and engage in intense manual labor while maintaining their composure and cover to gather information necessary to expose and stop farmed animal abuse,” the job posting stated.

On its website, Mercy For Animals states that farm animals are “smart and unique individuals just like the dogs and cats we share our homes with.”

“But behind the closed doors of modern farms they endure brutal cruelty,” the website said. “Most spend their entire lives in dark, crowded, waste-filled sheds. Some are locked in cages so small they can barely turn around. Because many animal cruelty laws do not protect them, farmed animals are often beaten, mutilated, and painfully slaughtered.”

Katie Olthoff, with the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association, said the group’s mission is to “grow Iowa’s beef business, and ultimately, we support all sectors of the livestock industry in Iowa.”

She disagreed with the tactics used by animal welfare groups.

“Iowa’s cattle producers are proud of the work they do and have nothing to hide,” Olthoff said. “But activist groups have unjustly attacked animal agriculture with manipulated video footage in the past and it appears, from the job listing, that they want to do so again.”

“ICA will keep working to protect against those who wish to damage the reputation of our family farms,” she added. “ICA will continue to work to grow Iowa’s cattle industry, especially focusing on efforts that allow young Iowans to return to their rural communities to raise livestock.”

Dal Grooms, with the Iowa Pork Producers Association, noted that regardless of the ag gag law ruling, all producers are encouraged to “continue using their animal well-being care practices.”

“We also encourage them to vigorously vet the credentials of people who try to gain access to their farms,” she said. “While animal care and food safety remain at the forefront of the work done every day at the farm, we anticipated that activists would again work to destroy animal agriculture in our state; one of their goals. That’s why we continue to explore options that would protect Iowa’s farmers who work daily to provide people a variety of food options.”

She added that Iowa’s pig farmers “will continue to properly care for their animals in facilities that provide comfort, food and water to our animals.”

“There is so much commitment to this principle of animal care, that more than 20,000 Iowans have been certified in Pork Quality Assurance (PQA) Plus training,” Grooms said. “PQA Plus is a comprehensive program that combines the sciences of animal well-being and food safety.”

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