Anyone who cares about food safety, animal abuse, the environment and/or the First Amendment rights of whistleblowers and the media alike have reason to be extremely concerned about Idaho's new ag-gag law, the latest in a series of state-driven efforts to protect factory farms against the interests of all of the above.
Monday, a coalition of animal activists, civil rights groups and media organizations filed a federal lawsuit aimed at overturning it.
The controversial bill, which Gov. C. L. “Butch” Otter signed into law last month, makes it illegal for anyone to secretly film activity at the farms -- a tactic that animal rights groups have successfully used to expose abusive practices and push reform. It was brought about after Idaho's $2.5 billion dairy industry complained that videos of cow abuse taken by Mercy for Animals unfairly hurt business. As the plaintiffs point out in a statement announcing the lawsuit, the penalty for exposing cruelty -- up to a year in prison and a $5,000 fine -- is worse than that for actual abuse, which carries a maximum jail term of just six months for first-time offenders.
The national nonprofits Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho (ACLU) and the Center for Food Safety (CFS) are all plaintiffs, as are Farm Sanctuary, Farm Forward, Idaho Concerned Area Residents for the Environment (ICARE), Idaho Hispanic Caucus Institute for Research and Education (IHCIRE), River’s Wish Sanctuary, Sandpoint Vegetarians, Western Watersheds Project, journalist Will Potter, undercover investigations consultant Daniel Hauff, investigator Monte Hickman, Professor James McWilliams, investigative journalist Blair Koch and the political journal CounterPunch. A related petition, from Farm Forward, can be found/signed here.