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PETA, ACLU, Many Others Sue Idaho Over ‘Ag-Gag’ Law

Written by Michelle Kretzer | March 18, 2014

We’ve long known that “ag-gag” bills, which aim to silence factory-farm whistleblowers, are on shaky constitutional ground. But Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter just signed one of these controversial pieces of legislation into law, making it illegal for anyone to take photos or videos at a factory farm or slaughterhouse within the state without the owner’s express consent and effectively shutting down any chance of exposing cruelty to animals or dangerous conditions for workers.

The U.S. Constitution protects free speech and freedom of the press, including exposés of the animal agriculture industry. So Idaho shouldn’t have been too surprised when the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Idaho, PETA, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the Center for Food Safety, and many other civil and animal rights organizations, along with journalists, banded together and filed a federal lawsuit to overturn the statute.

Exposing this type of abuse is now illegal in Idaho. We’re working to turn that around.

In the last decade, animal-protection advocates have conducted more than 80 undercover investigations at factory farms in the United States, virtually all of which—were they to take place in Idaho—would be criminalized by the Idaho statute. One recent PETA investigation revealed multiple beatings of pigs with metal rods and workers who stuck clothespins into pigs’ eyes. A supervisor was filmed kicking a young pig in the face, abdomen, and genitals to make her move and told the investigator, “Make her cry.” The lawsuit argues that Idaho’s law silences would-be whistleblowers by intimidating journalists and activists from exercising their First Amendment rights.

If convicted under the “ag-gag” law, a whistleblower would face up to a year in prison and a $5,000 fine. By comparison, the maximum jail term for a first offense of cruelty to animals in Idaho is six months. In other words, Idaho more severely punishes those who expose cruelty to animals than those who commit it.

PETA, the ACLU, and all our co-plaintiffs intend to fight until this law is overturned. We will keep our supporters updated on the progress of the case.

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  • Kelly says:

    I stand with those who fight against animal cruelty, for our freedom of speech, and who uphold our constitution. Big Ag has no business taking away our rights. This bill is beyond wrong and it is a thousand steps back for us as a nation!

  • Kelly says:

    Ironically, Ag-gag us the reason I stopped eating meat. It isn’t PETA or activists. To me, Ag-Gag is a horrific depiction of what money and greed are capable of in this country and it is at the expense of helpless animals. I’m not going to participate in this benevolent quest.

  • Kelly says:

    Just imagine if Day Care centers were to try and pass this law against child abuse whistleblowers. Just imagine the outrage. Animals are just as vulnerable as children and trying this bill is a slippery slope for our nations humanity and progress.

  • helena says:

    Anything we can do about Idaho law? NY resident

    • Write the politicians & dairy association, post on page, sign petitions, boycott ALL Idaho non-organic milk. Drink almond &/or rice milk, they are actually quite good tasting. I have.

  • Charlotte says:

    I can’t believe this is happening in a state where I am from, absolutely disgusting.

  • Sarah says:

    Thanks for fighting this law PETA! I live in southern Idaho and I am disgusted that my state senator (Jim Patrick) is the person responsible for introducing this legislation. Go vegan!

  • Gladys B. says:

    Totally disgusted with the treatment of animals, this is CRUELTY, AND IT NEEDS TO STOP!

  • Donna says:

    I sent an email to Jim Patrick, I know it won’t make a difference, but I just really feel terrible about this step backwards that is currently taking place. If you haven’t sent an email consider doing it, maybe enough people especially you who live there will make a difference.
    The gist of mine was this
    ” I’m curious about why exactly you would choose to allow cruelty to become legal? Yes, I know you’ll say that wasn’t your intention. But you did. You held in your hand the power to take away the freedom to expose injustice, and you did.I know my few dollars towards the agriculture industry that you will not be getting won’t mean much to you, but know that I will from this day forward check labels and become very aware of where the products I use come from, I will encourage others to do the same.
    I will never understand how a human being, a person that should be able to understand that mistreatment is wrong, and you don’t need it to sell a product could allow this bill to pass. Those animals that you are now personally responsible for (you became responsible for them when you took away the only voice they will ever have) are paying the price for your ignorance.”

  • Baylee says:

    I live in Idaho, and I don’t know a single person who knows about this bill and thinks it is okay, including non-vegans. Many petitions were sent to Butch and he signed the bill anyway. What is the worst part is that he said ranchers care more about the well being of their animals than animal rights activists do, not only is he signing this but he is so ignorant about the whole situation.

  • Nan Newall says:

    Thank you PETA, ACLU, Animal Legal Defense Fund, and other animal and civil rights organizations for challenging Idaho’s archaic ag-gag laws. The barbaric, brutal, inhumane treatment of animals cannot and should not be tolerated. To quote Dian Fossey, “The man who kills animals today is the man who kills people who get in his way tomorrow.”

  • Ruth says:

    We are also abusers in the United States not only China. The mayor of Idaho is probably getting paid since unfortunately has the power to do put through that law so those animals abusers can do whatever they want. Its disgusting and pitiful to know that these powerful people just care about money and sell themselves to something so cold blooded. They are murderers of innocent animals created by god. I bet he even goes to church and pretend he’s a christian. Peta should pit this in the news so the nation would now whats going on behind the doors. Its all politics and about money.

  • michelle says:

    animals are living beings feel stop mistreating animals cruelly feel as well as hopefully we all be vegetarians and let the animals live in peace

  • angela says:

    why is this happening……my faith in human kind is shaken everyday when i see this kind of behavior……..evolution is seems a long way off for these people and companies that participate in the torture and cruelty of these beings……these are sad times

  • Laura Karney says:

    This is ridiculous. This anti gag law says it’s ‘ok’ to abuse and the people who condone this law or behavior obviously have something to hide. We don’t have an anti-gag law for humans because we all know it’s unacceptable to abuse ANY living thing.

  • Holly Melcher says:

    I live in Idaho and I can not for the life of me understand the ag -gag bill. It makes me sick! Please put as much pressure on Butch Otter as possible. He knows better, he is a rancher. I feel so very sorry for his animals. Typical RED state politics!