House Bill 589: The Breakdown

Nothing is more distasteful than shady business practices, except maybe shady business practices that seek protection by state and federal laws.

HF589 is a bill for an act relating to offenses involving agricultural operations and providing ipenalties and remedies. It was formerly called HF 431. It is specifically addressed to the State of Iowa, which is one of the most important locations of farming for industrial purposes in the United States.

Iowa has enormous farming operations which contribute considerably to the industrial food system. According to Grist, "Accounting for less than 2 percent of the U.S. landmass, Iowa churns out a fifth of U.S. corn and a sixth of our soy -- the nation's most prodigious crops, the main inputs for our industrial food system, and increasingly important sources of auto fuel. Nearly one in three U.S. hogs breathe their first and last breaths in Iowa -- and so, for good measure, do a twentieth of our beef cattle."

While California may boast 25% of our consumables in roughage, Iowa, hands-down has the market in truly industrial agriculture.

So lawmakers came up with HF-589. The section we are most concerned with the terms, "animal facility interference" and "animal facility fraud." Read the bill in its entirety here, but I will summarize for you:

  • Regarding animal facility interference: anyone who produces any record that reproduces an image or sound occurring at the animal facility,  not limited to photography or audio media; anyone who directly or indirectly (is associated) produces and/or distributes said record or anyone who even possesses said record can be prosecuted for attempting to make companies truly accountable for their actions.
  • Regarding animal facility fraud: anyone who obtains access to an animal facility by false pretenses for the purpose of committing an act not authorized by the owner of the animal facility or makes a false statement or representation as part of an application to be employed at the animal facility, if the person knows the statement to be false, and makes the statement with an intent to commit an act not authorized by the owner of the animal facility.

For a first conviction, the person can be found guilty of an aggravated misdemeanor. For a second or subsequent conviction, the person can be found guilty of a class “D” felony. And there are plenty other ways within the bill to slap felonies on grassroots whistleblowers.

The punishment seems pretty steep when considering the social responsibility of any company or factory that is involved with the raising of animals, especially animals intended for food. This gives an already overwhelmingly unaccountable system even less accountability, but further, makes a stronger case for vegetarianism.

After all, many of the most recent breaking stories about the unbelievably poor conditions in factory farms have been exposed due to people working in such conditions to document it.

Photo credit: Public Domain