DES MOINES — A top official from the animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals says there should be more cameras in Iowa farms, not fewer.

PETA Senior Vice President Dan Mathews added that animal rights groups are looking at legal remedies if a bill that makes it illegal to film at farms without the owner’s consent becomes law.

Mathews made his remarks during a news conference he and other PETA officials hosted Friday at the Capitol. The conference included portions of a 2008 video PETA workers made at a Greene County hog farm that resulted in 22 criminal charges being brought against six workers.

“I have been involved in numerous undercover investigations,” Mathews said. “The backbone of everything we do at PETA, since the start, has been undercover cruelty investigations at laboratories, services, puppy mills, fur farms, factory farms and slaughter houses.”

The bill in question, HF 589, passed the House in March on a 66-27 vote. Supporters of the measure say the legislation protects farmers from unscrupulous activists who encourage and stage illegal actions by workers to get farmers in trouble.

Opponents have argued against it on First Amendment grounds, saying it would outlaw undercover journalistic investigations that seek to expose potentially unsafe and unsanitary conditions for animals, workers and consumers.

“Cameras don’t lie,” Mathews said. “There needs to be another set of eyes here … If everything is so wonderful, why not have the place filmed? Why not have it rigged for cameras?”

The legislation is currently awaiting action in the Senate.

Mathews said he held a similar news conference in Florida last week where similar legislation is pending and plans trips to other states this year.

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