Ag-Gag Law Ruled Unconstitutional in Idaho
On November 12, 2015, a United States District Court judge signed the final judgement that officially declared Idaho’s current ag-gag law, titled the “Agricultural Security Act”, as unconstitutional, as it violates the first and 14th amendments.
Ag-gag laws are laws created to silence whistle-blowers–whether they be employees, journalists, or animal rights activists, from revealing animal mistreatment and abuse in any agricultural sphere. They have already been passed in seven states.
The Agricultural Security Act of Idaho became law in February of 2014, and included prison sentences as well as fines for anyone found creating undercover footage of abuses taking place in any farm in Idaho. These laws came into place as a result of these undercover videos exposing cruel practices–including pigs, cows and chickens being beaten or mutilated. Farmers reacted by advocating for laws that would make this kind of secret footage illegal, or to keep their employees from speaking out.
Matthew Liebman, senior attorney for Animal Legal Defense Fund, which was one of the main organizations that fueled the suit that resulted in the overturning Idaho’s ag-gag law, stated:
“Ag-Gag laws criminalize photos and videos taken by people who have a right to be at the facility as employees. Under the Idaho statute, a bona-fide employee could be sent to prison for a year for taking out his cell phone to document animal cruelty if he didn’t ask his boss’ permission first. The mere existence of these laws is harmful, even if no one is prosecuted, because they prevent people from engaging in protected free speech, chilling our constitutional rights before we even exercise them. The industry thrives on secrecy and promotes false images of how animals are treated before becoming meat. Whatever one’s view on the ethics of eating animals, a robust and educated public debate can’t take place without access to accurate information.”
The overturning of this law marks the first time so far that an ag-gag bill was successfully reversed. As Liebman stated, there is also a case against the ag-gag laws in Utah, and he hopes that the statute in North Carolina will soon be declared unconstitutional as well.
When asked what the most important thing people can do to stop these kinds of laws from gaining momentum in the first place, he stated:
“I think one of the most significant things each of us can do is simply to refuse to participate in this cruelty by boycotting animal products and adopting a vegan diet. It’s easier than it’s ever been before. It may seem like a pat answer, but leaving animal products out of your shopping cart is the most direct way you can support a better life for animals.”
Photo Credit: http://chezgigi.com/hear-no-evil-speak-no-evil/