Victory For Farm Animals & Free Speech! The U.S. Supreme Court Declines To Review Kansas’ Ag-Gag Law That Would Have Prevented Undercover Filming In Slaughterhouses

In a major victory for animals and farm workers in the animal agriculture industry, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit that struck down the “Ag-Gag” law in Kansas for violating the First Amendment. The decision follows a lawsuit filed in 2018 by an Animal Legal Defense Fund led coalition of animal, environmental, and food safety advocacy groups, challenging the law’s constitutionality.

The Kansas law in question made it a crime to engage in activities that are essential to conducting undercover investigations that have in the past revealed horrific treatment of farmed animals and food workers to the public.

The appeals court held that Kansas may not silence views critical of industrial animal agriculture. The court’s decision affirmed that videos, articles, advocacy, and public dialogue generated by whistleblowers and undercover investigations of factory farms and slaughterhouses relate to a matter of public concern: The treatment of animals and workers on factory farms and in slaughterhouses, and the manner in which food is produced. This lies at the core of the First Amendment. The Supreme Court’s decision leaves that important ruling in place.

“The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision not to disturb the lower court decisions is a victory for farmed animals, factory farm and slaughterhouse workers, and food and public safety as it leaves intact the public’s constitutional rights over protecting corporate interests and profits,” Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director, Stephen Wells, said in a statement. “Until there are cameras publicly broadcasting the conditions within factory farms and slaughterhouses, investigations are the country’s only opportunity to see the horrific ‘industry standard’ conditions under which food is made.”

“The industry works hard to keep its practices secret, knowing consumers won’t accept the intense confinement and other inhumane treatment of animals, as evidenced by the passing of California’s Proposition 12 and other proposed state legislation,” concluded Wells.

“The Supreme Court’s refusal to review the Tenth Circuit’s decision leaves in place important constitutional protections for investigators working with animal rights groups to expose misconduct in the industrial animal agriculture industry,” said Alan Chen, a University of Denver law professor who helped lead the lawsuit against Kansas. “This is a big win for the national campaign against Ag-Gag laws.”

Enacted in 1990, the Kansas Ag-Gag law was the oldest in the United States. Kansas is a major agricultural producer with the third-most cows of any state, and until being struck down, its Ag-Gag law had prevented whistleblowers from investigating the conditions that millions of pigs, cows, chickens, and other animals endure.

There have been nine lawsuits challenging state Ag-Gag laws around the country. Earlier lawsuits have resulted in courts striking down similar laws or portions of laws in Iowa, North Carolina, Idaho, Utah, and Wyoming.

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals will soon consider the constitutionality of Iowa’s second law, after striking down Iowa’s first law and recently clearing the way for Animal Legal Defense Fund’s lawsuit challenging Arkansas’ law to proceed. A decision concerning North Carolina’s law is pending in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Animal Legal Defense Fund is also currently challenging a third Iowa law in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa.

You can help all animals and our planet by choosing compassion on your plate and in your glass. #GoVeg

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