Idaho Appeals Ruling Against "Ag-Gag Law"

December 15, 2015 08:30 AM
Dairy Heifers

The state of Idaho has filed an appeal of a federal court's decision to overturn the state's "ag-gag law," which makes it a crime to surreptitiously videotape agriculture operations.

Idaho lawmakers passed the law in 2014 after the state's $2.5 billion dairy industry complained that videos of cows being abused at a southern Idaho dairy unfairly hurt their business, according to the Spokesman Review.

The Los Angeles-based animal rights group Mercy For Animals released the videos. They showed workers at Bettencourt Dairy beating, stomping and otherwise abusing cows in 2012.

A federal court invalidated the law in August, holding that it violated First Amendment.

U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill found that the law's "primary purpose is to protect agricultural facility owners by, in effect, suppressing speech critical of animal-agriculture practices." He ruled that evidence indicated the law was "intended to silence animal welfare activists, or other whistleblowers who seek to publish speech critical of the agricultural production industry."

It was the first federal court ruling on a so-called "ag-gag" law. Eight states have passed similar laws.

Last week, the groups that filed the lawsuit, led by the Animal Legal Defense Fund, filed a motion with the court asking that the state pay more than $250,000 to cover their attorney fees and costs.

Todd Dvorak, spokesman for Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, said the office had no comment on the notice of appeal.

Ag groups including the Idaho Farm Bureau and Idaho Dairymen's Association had been urging the state to appeal the ruling, according to the Capital Press, an ag newspaper.

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