October 23, 2016

Judge Strikes Down Idaho’s Ag-Gag Law

The Ag-Gag law in Idaho, which was passed in 2014, has been struck down as unconstitutional by U.S. District Court Judge B. Lynn Winmill. The state has not decided if it will appeal this decision. This is the first time an ag-gag statute has been struck down by a federal court.

GavelThe Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) brought a case against the state in April 2015. The law was passed after the animal rights group Mercy for Animals shot an undercover video showing workers abusing milk cows at the Dry Creek Dairy in Hansen, Idaho.

ALDF alleged that the bill “has both the purpose and effect of stifling public debate about modern agriculture.” The law criminalizes all employment-based undercover investigations and criminalizes investigative journalism,whistleblowing by employees, or other expository efforts that entail images or sounds.

This is a violation of the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, according to the complaint. ALDF moved for summary judgment on those claims, and the Court granted their motion.

Winmill wrote in his ruling, “An employee can be convicted for videotaping animal abuse or life-threatnieng safety violations at an agricultural facility without first obtaining the owner’s permission. Any person who violates the law – whether an animal rights’ investigator, a journalist, or an employee – faces up to a year in jail.” He continued that the purpose of the ag-gag law is to “limit and punish those who speak out on topics relating to the agricultural industry, striking at the heart of important First Amendment values.”

Food Poisoning Bulletin has been writing about ag-gag laws for years. These laws are now in place in seven other states. There is currently a lawsuit against the ag-gag law in Utah, brought by the Animal Legal Defense Fund.


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