Despite the prevalence of animal cruelty on factory farms, made public through undercover investigations by animal protection organizations, some states have chosen to ignore these abuses and have instead opted for legislation. These laws are called ag-gag bills, that protect industry interests above all else, meaning they are a direct threat to people, animals and the environment.
On February 28 of this year, Idaho became the seventh and most recent state to jump on the ag-gag band wagon.
Days before Idaho Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter signed SB 1337 into law, animal protection group Mercy for Animals (MFA) released yet another disturbing undercover investigation, revealing workers beating, kicking, and jumping cows in addition to them sexually abusing a female cow. Know where this footage was taken? A farm right in the state of Idaho — a farm that has since been “protected” from undercover investigators with the passage of SB 1337. Twisted, isn’t it?
According to Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), Idaho’s ag-gag law now makes it “illegal for anyone to take photos or videos at a factory farm or slaughterhouse without the owner’s express consent. If convicted under the ag gag law, a whistle-blower would face up to a year in prison and a $5,000 fine.”
“By comparison, the maximum jail term for a first-offense conviction of animal cruelty in Idaho is six months. In other words, Idaho more severely punishes those who expose animal cruelty than those who commit it,” ALDF continues.
As with other ag-gag laws, Idaho’s legislation has effectively rendered undercover investigations impossible, leaving U.S. consumers in the dark about what goes on behind the close doors of the state’s factory farms. And based on what we’ve seen from MFA’s investigation, it’s downright disgusting.
However, there is now a glimmer of hope, as a large coalition of animal, consumer, and civil liberties protection organizations, including the ALDF, PETA, ACLU, Farm Sanctuary, Farm Forward; Idaho Concerned Area Residents for the Environment; Idaho Hispanic Caucus Institute for Research and Education; journalists Will Potter, Blair Roch, and others have just filed a federal lawsuit to overturn Idaho’s ag-gag law on constitutional grounds.
As ALDF reports, “The lawsuit argues that Idaho’s law silences would-be whistle-blowers by intimidating journalists and activists from exercising their First Amendment rights.”
While there will certainly be a long battle ahead, this is not one concerned consumers and animal advocates will back down from. Watch out, Idaho – we’re coming!
Image source: Mercy for Animal Canada / Flickr