Court strikes down law gagging whistleblowers revealing animal cruelty

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 opposedΠoutside the agricultural community.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund is challenging Utah’s ag-gag law.

Jeffrey Newman represents whistleblowers.