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Animal Welfare Groups Slam State's Attempt to Revive Ag-Gag Law

Cows in Bettencourt Dairy, the case that sparked Idaho's "ag-gag" law. It was invalidated in August and the state is now appealing. (Mercy for Animals)
Cows in Bettencourt Dairy, the case that sparked Idaho's "ag-gag" law. It was invalidated in August and the state is now appealing. (Mercy for Animals)
December 16, 2015

BOISE, Idaho - Animal-welfare groups are slamming Idaho's attempt to revive the state's Agricultural Security Act, which critics call an "ag-gag" law.

The state is appealing a federal judge's decision in August to invalidate the law, which made it illegal to secretly film animal abuse on farms. The judge said the law violates the First Amendment and primarily serves to suppress speech critical of animal agriculture practices and silence animal-welfare activists.

"Ag-gag laws are an act of desperation from an industry that is willing to do anything to keep Americans in the dark about the systematic cruelty on factory farms where animals are confined in cramped and dirty conditions for much or all of their lives," said Michael McFadden, general counsel for the advocacy and consulting group Farm Forward, which is part of a coalition that sued to block the law.

The attorney general's office had no comment on the appeal. Supporters of the law said it is necessary to protect private property. The law passed in 2014 in reaction to a 2012 whistleblower video that showed abuse of cows at Bettencourt's Dry Creek Dairy in Hansen.

Allison Maier, a spokeswoman for the Idaho Humane Society, said the organization opposes ag-gag laws.

"Whistleblowing employees and undercover investigations have, in the past, exposed animal abuse on farms," she said, "and ag-gag laws prevent this level of transparency and accountability."

Seven states have some form of ag-gag law, including nearby Utah, but similar bills were defeated in 20 states in 2013 and 2014. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is expected to take up to two years to rule on the appeal.

The text of the law is online at legislature.idaho.gov.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - ID