Great news, Green Monsters! The U.S. District Court of Idaho has just struck down a controversial ag-gag law that would prevent whistleblowers from revealing inhumane conditions on factory farms on the grounds that it is unconstitutional. The final ruling stated that the law “violates the Equal Protection Clause because it was motivated in substantial part by animus towards animal welfare groups and because it impinges on free speech, a fundamental right.”
The news that the bill – which had been opposed by veteran game-show host Bob Barker – had been signed into law by Idaho Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter on Feb. 28 last year provoked outrage among animal activists. A lawsuit by a coalition of animal protection groups was immediately initiated, with the aim of arguing that the law “silences would-be whistle-blowers by intimidating journalists and activists from exercising their First Amendment rights.”
And it looks like those arguments have hit home!
Monday’s ruling by B. Lynn Winmill, Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court for Idaho, said that the State’s argument in favor of the law was “narrowly tailored to protect private property” and “the State completely ignores that food production is not a private matter.” Winmill also wrote, “Although the State may not agree with the message certain groups seek to convey about Idaho’s agricultural production facilities, such as releasing secretly-recorded videos of animal abuse to the Internet and calling for boycotts, it cannot deny such groups equal protection of the laws in their exercise of their right to free speech.”
Ag-gag laws are based on what Matt Rice of Mercy for Animals likes to call “the factory farm gag reflex: allow animal cruelty, ban people from exposing it.” Aside from their obviously harmful effect on farmed animals – as they strip away whatever scant legal protection the animals generally receive – the laws also pose a considerable threat to the health of consumers, workers, and the environment.
While the fight against these dangerous laws is by no means over, Idaho’s decision certainly puts a spring in the step of all who truly care about the well-being of farmed animals!
Image Source: Jennifer C./Flickr