Court Allows Ag-Gag Lawsuit to Proceed, Rights Attorneys Call Law Unconstitutional

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September 4, 2014, Boise – Today, a federal judge denied Idaho’s motion to dismiss Animal Legal Defense Fund v. Otter, a federal lawsuit challenging the state’s “ag-gag” law, which punishes undercover investigations and whistleblowing inside of animal agricultural facilities.  The Center for Constitutional Rights, which filed an amicus brief arguing that the statute violates the First Amendment, issued the following statement:

The court has correctly recognized that Idaho’s ag-gag law is constitutionally suspect. Lawmakers could not have been clearer that the purpose of the law is to silence animal rights activists, explicitly stating that it was drafted to protect the economic interests of animal agriculture, that releasing undercover footage from a dairy farm and calling for a boycott of dairy products “crossed the…line,” and that the dairy industry aimed to protect itself from being “persecuted in the court of public opinion.” 
 
In fact, the only line that has been crossed is the constitutional line that protects speech from being criminalized. That line is the First Amendment, and it not only allows, it insists, that important questions – such as what rights animals are entitled to – be debated in the court of public opinion. 
 
The Constitution does not permit special laws to protect the animal agriculture industry from public scrutiny simply because it is not winning that debate.
 
In the past decade, animal rights activists have conducted more than 80 undercover investigations inside of animal agricultural facilities. In response, industry groups have begun an aggressive effort to pass state-level ag-gag laws. Idaho’s law was enacted in February, despite strong opposition, following an undercover investigation by Mercy For Animals inside of an Idaho dairy farm, which uncovered, among other horrific footage, cows who were too sick or injured to walk, cows being beaten and dragged by their necks, and cows bellowing in pain. Over 20 ag-gag bills in more than a dozen states have failed in the past year. 

A coalition of animal activists, journalists, workers’ rights organizations, environmental groups, and civil liberties defenders are plaintiffs in the case.

The Center for Constitutional Rights works with communities under threat to fight for justice and liberation through litigation, advocacy, and strategic communications. Since 1966, The Center for Constitutional Rights has taken on oppressive systems of power, including structural racism, gender oppression, economic inequity, and governmental overreach. Learn more at ccrjustice.org.

 

Last modified 

September 4, 2014