Center for Constitutional Rights Challenges Idaho “Ag-gag” Law
May 21, 2014, Boise – Today, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) joined the court battle against so-called “ag-gag” laws, which punish undercover investigations and whistleblowing inside of animal agriculture facilities. CCR filed an amicus brief in the case Animal Legal Defense Fund v. Otter, urging a federal court to strike down Idaho’s ag-gag law as a violation of the First Amendment. The law was enacted in February, despite strong public opposition and the failure of over 20 ag-gag bills in more than a dozen states in the past year. A coalition of animal activists, journalists, workers’ rights organizations, environmental groups, and civil liberties defenders filed the lawsuit in March.
“The nationwide push to enact ag-gag legislation is a blatant attempt by animal agriculture to stop the flow of undercover footage out of animal farms and slaughter plants,” said CCR Senior Staff Attorney Rachel Meeropol. “But if the industry is unhappy with its public profile, it will have to find some way other than ag-gag laws to mask the violence documented by investigators. The First Amendment does not permit special legislation to protect a particular industry from public scrutiny.”
In the past decade, animal rights activists have conducted more than 80 undercover investigations inside of animal agricultural facilities. The investigations have resulted in animal cruelty prosecutions, plant closures, and the largest meat recall in U.S. history. In response, industry groups have begun an aggressive effort to pass state-level ag-gag legislation, prohibiting the documentation of practices on farms and in slaughter plants and efforts to gain access to animal facilities.
Ag-gag laws are part of a broader pattern of legislation aimed at the repression of animal rights activists, which also includes the federal Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA). CCR is currently challenging the AETA as a violation of the First Amendment in Blum v. Holder.