In a victory for animal rights advocates, a federal judge in Idaho recently ruled the state's controversial "ag-gag" law was unconstitutional citing that silencing or even criminalizing the undercover investigations of factory farm animals is a violation of free speech.
The judge also ruled that the "ag-gag" law was unconstitutional under the equal protection clause stating "the facts show the state's purpose in enacting the statute was to protect industrial animal agriculture by silencing its critics."
In a 28-page ruling, U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill stated:
"The effect of the statute will be to suppress speech by undercover investigators and whistleblowers concerning topics of great public importance: the safety of the public food supply, the safety of agricultural workers, the treatment and health of farm animals, and the impact of business activities on the environment."
This is the first time a federal court has ruled such legislation, which has passed in various other states across the country.
"Audio and visual evidence is a uniquely persuasive means of conveying a message," Winmill wrote in his ruling, "and it can vindicate an undercover investigator or whistleblower who is otherwise disbelieved or ignored. Prohibiting undercover investigators or whistleblowers from recording an agricultural facility's operations inevitably suppresses a key type of speech because it limits the information that might later be published or broadcast."
Being called a "landmark victory," animal rights activists and attorneys with the Animal Legal Defense Fund said the animals on factory farms, who they support, will finally be protected throughout Idaho.
"Ag-Gag laws are notoriously unsupported by the public," a joint statement said. "Nationwide thirty-two similar Ag-Gag measures have failed. Currently, seven states have Ag-Gag laws on the books. This Idaho decision is just the first step in defeating similar Ag-Gag laws across the country."