Victory for animals! Recently, federal judge U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby sided with animal-rights activists and struck down Utah’s “ag gag” law, stating that the law violates free-speech rights.

Undercover investigations at farms and slaughterhouses across the country have repeatedly uncovered the dark underside of agribusiness: the abusive treatment of billions of animals. In response, industry interests have pushed hard for what are known as “Ag-Gag” laws. Instead of improving conditions for animals and workers, such laws “gag” would-be whistleblowers and undercover activists by making it illegal to record and disseminate photographs or footage taken in agricultural operations.

Judge Shelby made this ruling following a case in which two animal-rights groups and an activist sued Utah state over a law, which was enacted in 2012. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, the law prohibited lying to gain access to livestock operations, made secret recording illegal and required permission from the owner to film inside the farm. According to NPR, Judge Shelby rejected the state’s defense of the law, stating that “Utah had failed to show the ban was intended to ensure the safety of animals and farm workers from disease or injury.”

The Animal Legal Defense Fund, one of the plaintiff’s in the case is celebrating a major victory for animals. “These unconstitutional laws will fall like dominoes. Ag-gag laws are flagrant attempts to hide animal cruelty from the American people, and they unfairly target activists trying to serve the public’s interest,” Stephen Wells, Executive Director of the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), said in a statement. ALDF also said that this was the first lawsuit filed in the nation to challenge ag-gag laws.

These so-called “ag-gag” bills are being condemned as unconstitutional by civil liberties, public health, food safety, veterinarian, environmental, food justice, and workers’ rights organizations. They are excessive and unnecessary, as there are already extensive trespassing and slander laws that protect private property owners. The public has the right to know about illegal and unethical practices on farms such as food safety issues, working conditions, and blatant animal abuse, and trying to hide them is simply unacceptable.

Thank you, Judge Shelby, for holding factory farms accountable for cruelty, instead of falling under the influence of the industry that seeks to censor whistleblowers and keep the public uninformed for their own financial motives. Be sure to share this victory within your networks!

Lead image source: Ben Bush/Flickr