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Ag-gag laws being challenged

Ag-gag laws in Idaho and Utah are being challenged by animal and free speech activists.
Ag-gag laws in Idaho and Utah are being challenged by animal and free speech activists.
Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images

The battle between farm organizations and animal activists spark up again with lawsuits recently made against ag-gag laws in Utah and Idaho. USA Today reported Sunday, July 20, that these laws will move from state legislatures to federal courts on a challenge to their constitutional merit.

Ag-gag laws prohibit undercover video recording of what is occurring on farms and animal abuse. Those that do can be punished by law. If caught filming in Idaho, one could get a year in jail and a $5,000 fine. About half the states in the US have attempted to put these laws into place, but only a handful have succeeded.

Farm organizations, livestock producers and those who support these laws said that these laws will protect their homes and businesses. Animal rights activists, free speech activists and others who are against these laws argue that something is being hidden through these laws.

Those who are in support of said laws are taking a different route in terms of fighting back. Instead of lobbying for this issue they can be found on social media sites including Twitter.

"We're going to step up now and figure out how to address the issue within our own community rather than relying on legislation to block information," said Ryan Goodman, spokesman for the Montana Stockgrowers Association. "We do want to be open and transparent with the public and not come across as if were trying to hide something because we’re not. We're just trying to protect our own families and businesses."

Those who oppose these laws, can also be found on social media, suggest that the secrecy being protected here may lead to greater animal abuse and even consumer health safety. In 2007, an investigation by the Humane Society of the United States in Chino, California lead to the largest meat recall in U.S. history after an undercover video was leaked of a slaughterhouse’s mistreatment of animals.

The lawsuit filed against the Idaho law states that past investigation on farms have found "food safety recalls, citations for environmental and labor violations, evidence of health code violations, plant closures, criminal convictions, and civil litigation."

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and Animal Legal Defense Fund are listed as plaintiffs in both lawsuits. In the USA Today article, spokesman for the Animal Legal Defense Fund, Chris Green, said, "There's this pro-whistleblowing sentiment that exists in the U.S. populace. Anything that indicates anti-whistleblowing indicates someone is trying to hide something from the American people and that doesn't bode well."

One main concern regarding undercover filming in what extent the videos have been edited. Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey said, "People were essentially creating false narratives and getting on farms and actually not even representing what was happening on those farms. We want to make sure bad stuff isn't happening out there. If somebody is doing something wrong it needs to stop, but some will try and paint the whole industry as those handful of outliers."

The date for the Idaho lawsuit and the Utah trial have not been set. It is speculated that the cases could see a courtroom sometime until next year.

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