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The enemy of industry is accused of violating Iowa’s new food law

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IOVA CA CITY, Iowa (AP) – An animal rights activist whose investigations and ridicule have made him a leading enemy of the livestock industry has been accused of breaking into a pig farm.

Matthew John Onson, 35, is accused of making a food offense on February 5 in Dawes, 75 miles (120 kilometers) north of Dos Moyne, Iowa.

Investigators say the video, recorded by John Onson, approached one of the buildings and tried to open the door to find out if it had been locked before fleeing. Iowa Select Farms, one of the country’s largest pork producers, handed over the footage to the Wright County Sheriff’s Office, and John Onson was indicted last month.

Under the so-called ag-gag law signed by Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds in June, committing a food offense is a felony that carries a fine of up to $ 8,540 and up to two years in prison. The second crime is a crime that lasts up to five years behind bars. These are much harsher punishments than harassment elsewhere, a simple act that carries a fine of up to 30 days in prison and a $ 855 fine.

John Onson said on Thursday that he was on the spot, shooting videos for social media, trying to check on animals that were “suffering terribly”, but that he had never entered a building. Separately, he is waiting for theft ով on the charge of electronic wiretapping in 2020. On May 25, he was charged with entering the same facility, leaving the recording equipment and taking a pig, which he said had saved him from slaughter.

Lawmakers say they have increased penalties for intruding on livestock to protect farmers from harassment and intimidation that threaten the security of the state’s multibillion-dollar agricultural industry.

Republican Sen. Ken Rosenbum, Bill’s sponsor, said John Onson and four other activists had broken into his pig farm four times.

“Every time he and his co-workers do this, they violate the life support protocols needed to keep our food supplies safe. “And we just can not tolerate that kind of recklessness, I would say evil, intentional,” he said.

But John Onson said activists were pursuing life-saving measures that were beyond industry standards. Other critics say the law is aimed at covert investigations into poor animal welfare and public opinion against the meat industry.

Iowa’s two previous laws, passed in 2012 and aimed at covert livestock surveillance, have been suspended amid legal challenges. The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals is expected to rule soon on a federal judge ruling that the original law is unconstitutional because it criminalizes protected speech.

Meanwhile, Iowa lawmakers this week re-targeted John Onson’s tactics, tightening sanctions on people who violate surveillance equipment and take illegal animal samples for disease testing. The governor may sign the bill soon.

Last year, Just Onson researcher John Onson installed recording equipment on another Iowa Select Farms property last year, documenting that the company used heat to kill thousands of steam pigs, which he called a barbaric practice.

The company defended the method, known as ventilation shut-off, as a veterinary approved way to populate its farms after the COVID-19 epidemic slowed production in plants, leaving no room for animals. But Iowa Select stopped using the practice shortly after the discovery of John Onson. Prosecutors dropped the charges against Onson after the company said it did not want to testify at trial.

In a live interview with Fox Business in December, John Onson introduced himself as CEO of Smithfield Foods, warning that farms “can sometimes be small food for new diseases” – pledging $ 500 million a year to compensate for the environmental impact of the meat industry. : Anchor Maria Bartiromo said on the air that she was “pierced”.

John Onson said the accusation was likely to be used to challenge the constitutionality of the new law.

Den Astin Merson, a law professor at the University of Denver who challenged Iowa’s “ag-gag” laws, said it was astonishing that lawmakers responded to Johnson’s discovery of pig deaths not by banning the practice but by following the messenger. He said that John Onson could one day be seen as a transformational figure for his work informing the public about the meat industry.

“He’s working on the underlying part of this beast, which for many people was very dirty, controversial, extremely risky,” Merson said. “He has that appetite և fearlessness. “I imagine he is the number one public enemy.”

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