Idaho’s “Ag-Gag” Law, Which Bars Undercover Agricultural Investigations, is Ruled Unconstitutional

Thursday, August 06, 2015
Judge B. Lynn Winmill (photo: U.S. District Court, Idaho)

A federal judge has struck down Idaho’s so-called “ag-gag” law that prohibited the recording of animal abuses on farms.


U.S. District Court Judge B. Lynn Winmill ruled (pdf) this week that the law—one of eight adopted in the country—was unconstitutional because it violated the First Amendment.


The legislature passed the law, which was drafted by the Idaho Dairymen’s Association, last year after an animal rights group, Mercy for Animals, produced an undercover video of the Dry Creek Dairy in Hansen that showed workers abusing cows. The video showed cows being dragged by tractors, workers jumping on cows and workers beating them.


Winmill tossed out the law, saying it criminalized all employment-based undercover investigations as well as investigative journalism, whistleblowing by employees, or “other expository efforts that entail images or sounds.” The judge in his ruling cited remarks made by lawmakers during the bill’s debate, including those by one senator who accused animal rights groups to resorting to “terrorism” and likening them to “marauding invaders centuries ago who swarmed into foreign territory and destroyed crops to starve foes into submission.”


Winmill even cited Upton Sinclair’s classic exposé, “The Jungle,” saying that if Sinclair had written that today in Idaho, he would be prosecuted.


Idaho’s attorney general’s office, which defended the law, had not decided if it will appeal the decision to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Idaho's Ag-Gag Law Ruled Unconstitutional (by Philip A. Janquart, Courthouse News Service)

Federal Judge in Boise Strikes Down Idaho’s New ‘Ag-Gag’ Law (by Dan Flynn, Food Safety News)

Federal Judge Rules Idaho Ag-Gag Law Unconstitutional (by Natasha Geiling, ThinkProgress)

Animal Legal Defense Fund, et al., v. C.L. Butch Otter (U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho) (pdf)

Can Private Drones be Used to Counter “Ag-Gag” Laws in 7 States? (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Steve Straehley, AllGov)

Idaho Bill Criminalizing Videotaping of Agricultural Operations Targets Opponents of Animal Abuse (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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