ACLU Attacks Idaho’s New ‘Ag-Gag’ Law

Andrew Mortazavi

The American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho filed a suit in federal court Monday to strike down Idaho’s new “ag-gag” law. The law, passed last month by the state's Republican-dominated legislature and signed into law by Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter (R), outlaws the capture of photos or videos at farms and slaughterhouses without managers' express permission. The law also makes it illegal to document the destruction wrought by grazing livestock on federally managed and public lands, taking the law above and beyond similar “ag-gag” laws enacted in six other states.  The ACLU alleges that such laws intentionally violate constitutional free speech rights, while supporters claim that the law is necessary to protect agricultural operators from being “set up” by activists. According to Reuters: The Idaho measure came after ABC News' Nightline last year aired footage secretly shot by an animal activist of beatings and other abuses of cows at an Idaho dairy. Lawmakers who support the law say it is necessary to protect the agricultural industry, which adds billions of dollars to the Idaho economy, from unfair and biased investigations. But the ACLU, animal rights group PETA, the Center for Food Safety and other environmental and political groups argued in the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Boise on Monday that the law violates free speech rights enshrined in the U.S. constitution. Undercover investigations in the past decade at U.S. animal production facilities have documented such abuses as workers using steel rods to sexually assault pigs and smashing their heads into concrete floors and stomping and throwing chickens and turkeys like footballs, the groups argued in legal documents. The Idaho law comes with stiff penalties for activists and reporters, who could face up to a year in prison, a $5,000 fine and restitution equal to twice the value of any losses claimed by the operator if convicted.

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Andrew Mortazavi is a Spring 2014 editorial intern. Follow him on Twitter at @andrewmortazavi.
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