Ag-Gag Fail: Idaho Ordered to Pay $250,000 in Legal Fees
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FROM

Mercy for Animals (MFA)
May 2016

This ruling should also be a wake-up call to the meat, dairy, and egg industries that attempts to keep consumers in the dark about where their food comes from will not be tolerated.

According to the Idaho Statesman, Idaho has been ordered to pay nearly $250,000 in legal fees for a case that could have been avoided.

In 2012, Mercy For Animals released findings of an undercover investigation at Bettencourt Dairies in Hansen, Idaho, where workers were exposed stomping, beating, dragging, and otherwise torturing the cows.

In response to the investigation, the Idaho Dairymen’s Association drafted and sponsored an ag-gag bill, which was passed by the Idaho legislature and signed by Governor Otter in February 2014. This law created a new crime: “interference with agricultural production.” It essentially criminalized undercover investigations on factory farms.

A federal judge overturned this dangerous and un-American law last August for violating the First Amendment and Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution. U.S. district judge B. Lynn Winmill stated in his ruling:

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 coalition of nonprofit groups that challenged the law has now been awarded $249,875.08 in legal fees. Clearly ag-gag laws are not only unconstitutional, but a huge waste of taxpayer resources.

Idaho is now appealing the court ruling, which will result in an even greater waste of taxpayer money.

The governor and lawmakers of Idaho should be ashamed. They clearly don’t value their hardworking constituents and will accept money from big corporations at the taxpayers’ expense.

We urge Idaho lawmakers to focus their efforts on improving animal welfare and rewarding the brave whistleblowers who uncover criminal activity in the state’s agricultural operations.

This ruling should also be a wake-up call to the meat, dairy, and egg industries that attempts to keep consumers in the dark about where their food comes from will not be tolerated.

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