A federal judge ruled Monday that the Idaho law that prohibits secret filming of livestock farms violates the First Amendment Right to free speech and selectively targets activists or journalists who might be critical of farming practices. In some cases, these videos have been taken on dairy farms and used by animal extremists to promote their positions that animals should not be raised to provide food for humans.
Idaho’s law, passed early last year and dubbed the “ag-gag law,” made it illegal to surreptitiously record or lie about one’s identity to gain entrance to an agricultural facility. After passage of the law, a varied group of organizations, including the Animal Legal Defense Fund, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho, and Center for Food Safety, sued claiming that the law violates freedom of speech and criminalizes whistleblowing.
The U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho agreed and stated that the law suppresses speech of undercover investigators and whistleblowers “concerning topics of great public importance: the safety of the public food supply, the safety of agricultural works, the treatment and health of farm animals, and the impact of business activities on the environment.”
Seven other states – Missouri, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, North Dakota, Utah, and North Carolina – have passed laws that prohibit similar recordings.
The Idaho Attorney General’s Office has not yet determined if it will appeal the decision.
Members with questions may contact Emily Lyons, IDFA’s director of regulatory affairs and counsel, at email@example.com.