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Idaho Appealing Court Decision Striking Down Ag-Gag Law

A number of undercover investigations have revealed cruel conditions for cows on dairy farms. (Scott Olson/GettyImages)
A number of undercover investigations have revealed cruel conditions for cows on dairy farms. (Scott Olson/GettyImages)
May 11, 2017

BOISE, Idaho – The state of Idaho is appealing a court decision that struck down its so-called ag-gag law, which was passed to punish food safety and animal rights activists who secretly film and reveal conditions for animals at agricultural facilities.

Oral arguments on the law, which was ruled unconstitutional in 2015, are scheduled Friday in the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals .

The Idaho judge who made the decision says it violates the right to free speech.

Matthew Liebman is director of litigation with the Animal Legal Defense Fund, which originally challenged the law.

"From our perspective, it's quite clear that the purpose of this statute is to shut down one of the only available windows that the public has onto how animals are treated on factory farms," he points out.

The Idaho attorney general, as well as farm and cattle groups, say the law protects the property rights of agricultural producers.

The law originally was passed after the animal rights group Mercy for Animals released a video in 2012 showing workers beating cows at Bettencourt Dairies in Hansen.

Liebman says more than 100 undercover investigations across the country in recent years have revealed cruel conditions for animals on factory farms. He adds that mistreatment of animals on farms is widespread throughout the industry.

"Rather than change those practices, the response of the industry has been to kill the messenger by criminalizing undercover investigations and really trying to keep the public in the dark about how animals are treated," he states.

Idaho is one of eight states that have passed ag-gag laws. It is the only state to strike down such a law.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ID