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Iowa State Sen. Joe Seng Under Fire For "Ag Gag" Bill

Animal rights groups take aim at major proponent of bills to make it harder to spotlight animal abuse.

By Clare Leschin-Hoar

June 1, 2012

Think factory farms like this don't need to be exposed? Then get ready for a primary fight.

An effective, but hard to swallow tool of animal activists is heart wrenching video footage captured inside some industrial factory farms that produce our nation's food. Earlier this year, Iowa lawmakers swiftly moved the nation's first 'Ag Gag' bill (FH 589/SF431) through the legislature and onto the desk of Gov. Terry Branstad, who signed it into law almost immediately.

It was a stunning blow to those who hoped for more transparency in our food system, not less. Fast forward three months, and advocates are closely watching Iowa again.

State Sen. Joe Seng, author and champion of the 'Ag Gag' is challenging three-time incumbent, U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack in the state's Democratic Primary on Tuesday for the right to represent Iowa's 2nd Congressional District in Washington.

Unfortunately for Seng, the folks over at the Humane Society Legislative Fund (HSLF) have a very good memory, and they're hoping Iowa Democrats do too. Just in case, they've been busy contacting voters to remind them of Seng's record, and strongly encouraging primary voters to support Loebsack, whose district was recently redrawn.

The legislation Seng authored, they say, 'punishes whistleblowers, investigative journalists, and anyone who helps them report on problems uncovered at a factory farm.' Loebsack, on the other hand, is animal friendly. He voted to cap direct subsidies to factory farms; ban animal 'crush' videos, and supported strengthening enforcement of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act.

The HSLF -- an affiliate of the Human Society of the United States -- is also betting that candidates who supported 'Ag Gag' legislation in other states -- like Florida, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, Illinois, Indiana and Tennessee -- are paying close attention to this race.

'Part of our message is to signal to candidates that there are consequences for championing 'Ag Gag' bills that stomp on our first amendment rights and dim the spotlight on animal cruelty,' Sara Amundson, executive director of HSLF tells TakePart.

HSLF is nonpartisan. It evaluates candidates on single criteria: where they stand on animal welfare. As the group rolls out their 2012 endorsement list, Amundson says people might be surprised by who gets the nod.

'We're single issue. Our job is to help voters make good decisions in the voting booth, and that means sharing information on where the candidates stand,' she said.

In fact, if animal rights -- including those who end up on our dinner plates -- are important to you, the HSLF has made it easy to find out just which candidates they support on their Voter�s Guide page.

Although the animal-ag spotlight is shining on Iowa's 2nd congressional district this week, it's not the only race HSLF is watching. California's primary is the same day, and HSLF endorsed candidates in four races: Tony Strickland (R); Howard Berman (D); Jared Huffman (D) and Tony Cardenas (D).


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