On August 3, 2015, U.S District Court Judge B. Lynn Winmill for the U.S. District Court of Idaho ruled Idaho’s “ag-gag” law unconstitutional.
The Idaho legislature passed the “ag-gag” bill back in 2014 as a response to a Los Angeles animal rights group that released a video exposing animal abuse on a dairy farm in Iowa. The bill made it a misdemeanor for an individual to “interfere with agricultural production.” Interference included various acts such as obtaining employment at an agricultural facility only to cause economic injury, intentionally damaging crops or machinery, and entering an agricultural operation that is closed to the public to make video recordings of the conditions on the premises. The bill was signed on February 14, 2014 by Idaho Governor C.L. Otter, which then became Idaho Code § 18-7042.
According to the written opinion, the lawsuit was brought by the Animal Defense Fund, with other organizations, that argued the law was unconstitutional because “§ 18-7042 has both the purpose and effect of stifling public debate about modern agriculture ‘by (1) criminalizing all employment based undercover investigations; and (2) criminalizing investigative journalism, whistle blowing by employees…” The constitutional arguments brought against § 18-7042 were “violation of the Free Speech Clause of First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment…”
In the written opinion, Winmill found § 18-7042 both violated Freedom of Speech under the First Amendment and could not stand under the Equal Protection Clause.
Seven other states have passed similar “ag-gag” laws. The Animal Legal Defense Fund has also brought a challenge to Utah’s “ag-gag” laws in federal court.
Written by Katharine Richter - Research Assistant
August 4, 2015