Posted March 19, 2014
 
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other plaintiffs have filed a lawsuit asking a federal judge to strike down Idaho’s “ag gag” law, arguing it violates constitutional rights to free speech, according to an MSN News article available here.
 
Senate Bill 1337, signed into law by Idaho Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter on February 28, makes it illegal to take photos or videos at farms or slaughterhouses without the operator’s permission.  The law also criminalizes capturing images that demonstrate harm done to public land by grazing livestock.
 
The legislation was introduced after ABC News’ Nightline aired a video showing abuse of cows at an Idaho dairy. 
 
Plaintiffs including the ACLU, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and several others filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Boise.  “In order to silence the undercover investigations and corresponding media coverage that contribute to public debate about animal treatment and food safety, industry executives have made the enactment of factory-farm secrecy laws, (which) gag speech that is critical of industrial agriculture, a top legislative priority,” the lawsuit said.
 
Idaho is the seventh state to pass an ag gag law, according to an article by the Idaho Statesman available here.
 
“The Idaho law is deeply distressing because it is aimed entirely at protecting an industry, especially in its worst practices that endanger people, at the expense of freedom of speech.  It even would criminalize a whistle-blower who took a picture or video of wrongdoing in the workplace,” said Professor Erwin Chemerinsky, constitutional law expert and dean of the University of California, Irvine School of Law.

 

For more information on animal welfare, please visit the National Agricultural Law Center’s website here.