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.