On Monday, a federal judge struck down an Idaho’s anti-whistleblower law making whistleblowering on farms a crime punishable with a $5000 fine and year in jail. The Court found that it violates the First and 14th Amendments. This is the first time such an “ag-gag” statute has been successfully challenged.
Chief U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill wrote: “The effect of the statute will be to suppress speech by undercover investigators and whistleblowers concerning topics of great public importance: the safety of the public food supply, the safety of agricultural workers, the treatment and health of farm animals, and the impact of business activities on the environment.”
The lawsuit was brought by a coalition of animal-oriented groups, including the Animal Legal Defense Fund and Farm Sanctuary; civil liberties proponents, like the American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho; and the Center for Food Safety.
Seven other states still have similar laws: Kansas, Missouri, Utah, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota and North Carolina. These laws are opposed outside the agricultural community.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund is challenging Utah’s ag-gag law.
Jeffrey Newman represents whistleblowers.