Idaho has become the first and only state in the U.S. to call for the reinstatement of an “ag-gag” law; which makes undercover investigations of agricultural operations illegal by way of arguing that there is no First Amendment right to record activities on private property.
As reported in a release by Courthouse News Service, the Idaho Legislature previously enacted the law several years ago after animal rights organization Mercy for Animals went undercover and exposed horrific animal abuse at Bettencourt Dairies’ Dry Creek Dairy in Hansen, Idaho; including employees beating, kicking, jumping on cows and dragging one of the animals by its neck with a chain attached to a tractor.
Passed at the time as an “emergency measure,” the ag-gag law made it illegal to secretly film “agricultural production” with violators facing a $5,000.00 fine and one year in prison.
The law was overturned in 2014 after outraged civil and animal rights organizations, including The Animal Legal Defense Fund, sued on the basis that the questionable legislation was unconstitutional.
A lower court agreed and ruled that “the ag-gag law restricts free speech and violates the Constitution’s equal protection clause.”
On Friday of last week, as per Courthouse News Service, attorneys for the state requested that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reinstate the controversial ban.
Idaho Deputy Attorney General Carl Withroe argued that the law only requires a person recording activities to get permission from the property owner and does not restrict “unwanted coverage” in a news story.
The judges expressed skepticism with Circuit Judge M. Margaret McKeown stating that it appeared the law, in fact, was targeting “reporters doing exposés.”
Further, she claimed it was “odd” that the law restricted audio and video recording when an unwanted person on private property could already be prosecuted for trespassing.
According to the release, Justin Marceau, attorney for the Animal Legal Defense Fund, “said the purpose of the law was to prosecute investigations of agricultural misdeeds and pointed out the double-damage restitution provision.”
The Washington, D.C-based Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press also said in court documents filed with the appeals panel that “The Idaho statute poses a substantial risk of criminalizing lawful — and constitutionally protected — newsgathering activity and chilling the very journalism that has previously led to positive changes and a healthier food supply.”
Utah, North Carolina, Missouri, Kansas, North Dakota, Montana, and Iowa have also passed ag-gag laws.
*Please Call The House Agricultural Chair Judy Boyle and tell her that you oppose Idaho’s plans to reinstate the Idaho Ag-Gag Law ➡️ 208.355.3225
Also, Contact Senate Chair for the Agricultural Committee Jim Rice ➡️ 208.891.4178
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