September 28, 2021

U.S. Court Strikes Down Kansas Ag-Gag Law As Unconstitutional

The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit affirmed a lower court ruling striking down a Kansas Ag-Gag law for violating the First Amendment, according to the Center for Food Safety. The lawsuit was first filed in 2018 by a coalition of food safety advocates, along with animal and environmental groups.

U.S. Court Strikes Down Kansas Ag-Gag Law As Unconstitutional

Ag gag laws are intended to stop undercover filming in large factory farms by advocates who are trying to expose animal mistreatment as well as food safety violations. Studies have shown that stressing animals can increase the risk of pathogenic bacterial growth, and may lead to more human illnesses.

The court held that Kansas may not legislate speech to silence views “critical of animal agriculture.” The three provisions of the law targeted speech, not just conduct, because they regulated what may be said to gain access to these facilities, according to the decision.

Center For Food Safety adds that “The court’s decision affirms that videos, articles, advocacy, and public dialogue generated by whistleblowing and undercover investigations of factory farms and slaughterhouses relate to a matter of public concern: The treatment of animals on farms and manner in which food is produced.”

Animal League Defense fund Executive Director Stephen Wells said in a statement, “Kansas has hindered the ability of whistleblowers to expose inhumane conditions associated with factory farms for more than three decades while infringing on First Amendment rights. The  Tenth Circuit’s decision is a victory for animals throughout the state who are forced into industrial animal agriculture and suffer in secret, behind closed doors.”

And George Kimbrell, legal director for the Center For Food Safety added, “Ag-Gag laws strip Americans of their fundamental right to know how their food is produced, while enabling the inhumane treatment of farm animals. Today’s decision is a great victory towards a more just and transparent food system, the latest in a series across the country that are correctly striking down similar Ag-Gag laws as unlawful.”

The Kansas Ag-Gag law was the oldest in the country, first enacted in 1990. The law had prevented whistleblowers from investigation conditions that millions of animals endure, as the state is a major agricultural producer with the third-most cows of any state. As the court strikes down the Kansas ag-gag law, it joins other courts around the country.

Nine other lawsuits challenging these laws are going through the courts at the moment. Earlier lawsuits have resulted in these laws being struck down in Iowa, North Carolina, Idaho, Utah, and Wyoming.

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