Judge Rules Ban on Filming Factory Farms a Violation of Free Speech

A ban on filming in factory farms in Idaho has been overturned by Judge M. Margaret McKeown. The judge stated the ban was in violation of free speech and investigative journalism.

Back in 2012, the ban was initially instated as a response to shocking footage being released by the animal rights organisation Mercy for Animals. The group had managed to capture animal abuse at Idaho’s Bettencourt Dairy factory farm where the workers had been stomping on cows, kicking them and hitting them with sticks.

Some legislatures, speaking of the ban at the time, equated animal rights groups to terrorists and stated Mercy for Animals were attempting to blackmail and crucify the dairy company.

However, now factory farms in the state can be assured that they are no longer safe from these ‘terrorists’. The ‘ag-gag’ law that has protected them from undercover filming over the last few years has been lifted.

In her ruling, McKeown stated, ‘we are sensitive to journalists’ constitutional right to investigate and publish exposes on the agricultural industry. Matters related to food safety and animal cruelty are of significant public importance.’

She added, ‘without some legitimate explanation, we are left to conclude that Idaho is singling out for suppression one mode of speech – audio and video recordings of agricultural operations – to keep controversy and suspect practices out of the public eye.’

Similar legal challenges to ‘ag-gag’ laws are currently pending in the states of Utah and North Carolina.