As you may know, “ag-gag” laws seek to “gag” would-be whistleblowers and undercover activists by allowing them to be prosecuted for recording and disseminating footage of modern animal agriculture’s brutality. Ag-gag laws were first introduced in the early 1990s, when Kansas passed legislation that made it illegal to take undercover footage at a private farm. Montana and North Dakota passed similar laws the following year, followed by Iowa, Missouri, Utah, North Carolina, Wyoming, and Idaho.
Farm Sanctuary joined a coalition of other organizations in a First Amendment lawsuit against the Idaho ag-gag law. In August of 2015, U.S. District Judge B. Winmill found Idaho’s “Agricultural Security Act” to be unconstitutional on First Amendment grounds. The state appealed to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and arguments were heard last month; Farm Sanctuary remains a part of this coalition determined to fight Idaho’s ag-gag law as long as necessary. A ruling is expected later this summer.
Another ag-gag / anti-whistleblower law took effect in North Carolina on January 1, 2016. Twelve days later, Farm Sanctuary, along with another coalition of organizations, filed suit against this law as well. Earlier this year, a judge ruled against Farm Sanctuary and the coalition. Our coalition released the following statement and appealed the ruling to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court.
“The Constitution is clear: North Carolina courts must protect citizens’ right to know about abuse in nursing homes, at schools, and in government offices and to know about the welfare of animals. We firmly believe the Fourth Circuit will agree. The district court’s decision was exclusively on procedural grounds, holding that the plaintiffs lack standing to sue. Courts including the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho have decided that laws like North Carolina’s present a threat to all citizens. The district court’s decision should not be perceived as a judgment on our argument that North Carolina’s Anti-Sunshine law is designed to intimidate whistleblowers, in violation of the First Amendment. The state convinced the district court to close its doors and refuse to even consider the constitutionality of the Anti-Sunshine Law. We are confident that the Fourth Circuit will reverse the district court’s decision.”
We will, of course, continue to stand for farm animals, and for the public’s right to know what goes on in factory farms and slaughterhouses. We appreciate you being a part of this vital work!
Director of Engagement and Outreach