Coalition of Civil Liberties, Animal, Consumer Groups Head to Court over Controversial Idaho “Ag Gag” Law

Posted on March 17, 2014

Constitutional Challenge Made to State’s Attempt to Silence Factory Farm Whistle-Blowers

For immediate release:

Megan Backus, ALDF
David Perle, PETA
Leo Morales, ACLU of Idaho
Abigail Seiler, Center for Food Safety
Travis Bruner, Western Watersheds Project

cow-cc-peter-riou-article-image-500pxBOISE — Today, a coalition of organizations dedicated to civil liberties, animal protection, food safety, labor rights, and the environment, along with journalists, filed a federal lawsuit to overturn Idaho’s newly passed “ag gag” statute, signed into law by Idaho governor C.L. “Butch” Otter on February 28. The lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of Idaho’s ag gag law (Idaho Code sec. 18-7042), and was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho by national nonprofits Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho (ACLU), and the Center for Food Safety (CFS). Idaho is the seventh state to pass an ag gag law, and the first to do so since 2012.

The U.S. Constitution protects free speech and freedom of the press, including journalistic exposés of industrial animal production. Like other ag gag laws, Idaho’s statute criminalizes whistle-blowing investigations at factory farms, and specifically targets animal advocates who expose illegal and cruel practices. Idaho’s ag gag law makes it illegal for anyone to take photos or videos at a factory farm or slaughterhouse without the owner’s express consent. If convicted under the ag gag law, a whistle-blower would face up to a year in prison and a $5,000 fine. By comparison, the maximum jail term for a first-offense conviction of animal cruelty in Idaho is six months. In other words, Idaho more severely punishes those who expose animal cruelty than those who commit it.

In the last decade, animal protection advocates have conducted more than eighty undercover investigations at factory farms in the United States, virtually all of which would be criminalized by the Idaho statute. One recent PETA investigation revealed multiple beatings of pigs with metal rods and workers sticking clothespins into pigs’ eyes and faces. A supervisor was filmed kicking a young pig in the face, abdomen, and genitals to make her move and told the investigator, “Make her cry.” The lawsuit argues that Idaho’s law silences would-be whistle-blowers by intimidating journalists and activists from exercising their First Amendment rights.

“The Idaho law is deeply distressing because it is aimed entirely at protecting an industry, especially in its worst practices that endanger people, at the expense of freedom of speech. It even would criminalize a whistle-blower who took a picture or video of wrongdoing in the workplace,” said Professor Erwin Chemerinsky, constitutional law expert and dean at the University of California, Irvine School of Law. “I am confident that this law will be struck down under Ninth Circuit and Supreme Court precedents.”

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are ALDF, PETA, ACLU, CFS, Farm Sanctuary, Farm Forward, Idaho Concerned Area Residents for the Environment (ICARE), Idaho Hispanic Caucus Institute for Research and Education (IHCIRE), River’s Wish Sanctuary, Sandpoint Vegetarians, Western Watersheds Project, journalist Will Potter, undercover investigations consultant Daniel Hauff, investigator Monte Hickman, Professor James McWilliams, investigative journalist Blair Koch, and the political journal CounterPunch.

More Information

48 thoughts on “Coalition of Civil Liberties, Animal, Consumer Groups Head to Court over Controversial Idaho “Ag Gag” Law

  1. Lisa Carena says:

    I though Idaho would be a state of animal lovers. This leaves me speechless. :-(

    1. Julie says:

      Lisa, as native Idahoan, no, “we” are a state of animal and resource exploiters. Hunting, trapping, fishing, and agriculture for sport and/or profit. The handful of animal rights and welfare folks are grossly undermined. Idaho is a state where the majority still live in the Dark Ages and embrace corporate will. Until the collective consciousness changes, we will continue to see animals, both wild and domestic, suffer cruelties and have no rights whatsoever. I’m ashamed to be a native here. :(

      1. Connie says:

        Thanks for the info. Maybe you and others like you there could fight against the horrors that are acceptable there. I know animal rights groups will help you.

      2. Kit says:

        Julie is unfortunately right, and I’m not at all surprised this bill passed. I live in Idaho too, and it is controlled/overrun by corporate interests, GMO “food” production, and gross animal abuse/negligence. Crapo (senator) is quite cozily in bed with Monsanto and Big Farma lobbyists. CAFOs are pretty common here. There is a movement of local, family farmers to reclaim the industry, and the best thing we can do–besides legislation and lawsuits–is to support them financially while boycotting producers who run large-scale animal operations or produce garbage from Monsanto.

  2. Chuck LaMark says:

    This is obviously an attempt to cover abusive conditions by hiding behind a law. It clearly indicates that the industry has much to hid from the public involving their procedures. I fully support this lawsuit against the unfair law. I will repost and encourage others to do their duty to eliminate animal abuse everywhere.

  3. Kim says:

    We need to win this. There is no losing.
    This is worse than child abuse and domestic violence. Sadistic people need to be held accountable until the world sees the horror and prevalence of this injustice.

  4. Brigitte St Jean says:

    This is worse than child abuse and domestic violence. Sadistic people need to be held accountable until the world sees the horror and prevalence of this injustice. I fully support this lawsuit against the unfair law. I will repost and encourage others to do their duty to eliminate animal abuse everywhere.

  5. April says:

    We all need to be the voices for these poor suffering animals.

  6. Shirley Erlandsen says:

    Proverbs 12:10 A righteous man takes care ofhis animal, but the wicked? Even his compassion is cruel.

  7. carol coons says:

    All procedures need monitored in every slaughterhouse facility everywhere! No animal should ever be abused in any way!

  8. Alex Vizcaino says:

    Such a shame. This country it seems is being bought. Poor animals. Can’t eat meat because of the extreme mistreatment.

  9. Jill Forster says:

    I train dogs and live on a one hundred acre wildlife sanctuary. I see the wildlife and animals with HSUS easement on my land. I train service dogs here and it is a beautiful retreat. Clients love it here, but around me I see so much pain that is inflicted on the animals. I choose to train Service dogs from the shelter, animals know when we save them. They also know when we kill them. We are living unhealthy, our food, water, it is very sad to me, if we watched the animals they don’t need greed. They take what they need to and are grateful for the food, water, rest. They want what we should a safe place to rest our heads, and survival. How I feel about it.

  10. DEbbie says:

    Google Butch Otter, Gov of Idaho, and let his office know how sick this makes the rest of the US feel. Maybe he thought no one would care. I would like to obtain a list of the names of the retailers that utilize these dairies and boycott. Get the word out and just stop buying from them.

  11. Loretta Paraguassu says:

    This law is extremely distressing since its principles are contrary to acceptable, humane behavior. I am opposed to it because that it punishes those doing right and favors those who are practicing what deserves to be treated as criminal cruelty. It is clear that money interests were behind its passage. There is no other excuse and it should be struck down immediately.

  12. this kind of behavior is sick and deplorable. what kind of person treats and living creature this way? does this make you proud to be a humane? absolutely disgusted that money means so much more than compassion and dignity these days.

  13. Ron Wentworth says:

    Idaho’s law criminalizing investigations of animal cruelty at factory farms significantly reduces transparency, attempts to silence factory farm whistle-blowers and can contribute to the production of unhealthy food.

  14. sandy says:

    animals should be treated good, im so against any animal abuse, im glad the abuser were caught on camera, and it should be allowed, if the farmers are not doing anything wrong or abusive they shouldnt mind.

  15. Karen says:

    And this Governor of Idaho represents our beautiful, wonderful country… I agree with Debbie!…get a list of the names and retailers that use these dairies and boycott them.

  16. Kimberly M says:

    This is a ridiculous law made up by criminals in the effort to hide the abuse while they continue to reap profits. These animals are giving of themselves…whether it be milk they produce or the ultimate sacrifice, their life, for people to use, eat, etc. At the very least, we should be a compassionate Society and err on the side of overcompensation in regards to animal treatment in the Industry. We should not only strive to be HUMANE we should PRACTICE it on our FARMS! TEAR DOWN AG-GAG NOW! Let’s get laws on the books to protect the voiceless animals as well as laws that prosecute the owners of the farms. Send a message by passing laws that impose huge fines for any owner that allows this and looks the other way. Prosecute the abusers to the fullest extent by imposing jail terms and fines. Lets protect those who expose these atrocities. Let’s inundate Gov. Butch Otter’s office with calls, emails, letters, tweets, etc. to compel him to do something. Please post a petition to his office as well as other efforts we can make on behalf of defeating this law. Thank you!

  17. Christine Heidt says:

    The people who eat meat and use dairy products are just as guilty!
    Because they are either indifferent or undisciplined, they inadvertently condone these atrocities, which makes them guilty as well. EVERYBODY nowadays knows that eating flesh is MURDER !!!

  18. CATHY LAPE says:

    I cannot comprehend how this law can even be passed! It is, in fact, unconstitutional! I also cannot understand how, with the way these factory farms fight to remain covert, THIS isn’t enough for people to KNOW SOMETHING wrong is going on there. WAKE UP!!

  19. Laura Dalton says:

    Atrocities toward animals are committed by the cruel or/and ignorant, it is truly a heinous crime that these cruelties are left uncensored.

  20. Anna Pylant says:

    Us meat eaters must support this lawsuit,it’s the least we can do to help protect farm animals from cruelty b4 they make the ultimate sacrifice for us.

    1. Lesley Blissett says:

      What a non-sensical statement! The law is planning to hide cruelty and abuse, it will NOT protect animals, it will permit cruelty in the extreme!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    2. animals don’t sacrifice themselves for the sake of your appetite !! they are treated horribly then killed against their will on behalf of people like you

  21. Laurie Miskell says:

    The people who run Idaho are nothing but a bunch of politicians who are bought and paid for by any corrupt organization or company that can afford it. It makes me sick to think of all the poor animals that now suffer at the hands of monsters and that the government allows it simply because money does the talking there.

  22. Barb says:

    This is unconstitutional!! We have to protect farm animals from cruelty !! DISGUSTING!!!

  23. DEBY says:

    You can either turn sorrowfully or carelessly away from an animal in
    distress or summon the courage to run forward and help.
    We can judge the heart of a person by their treatment of animals.

  24. FS says:

    “Dan Steenson, attorney for the Idaho Dairymen’s Association, boasted that he drafted the legislation because “extremist groups implement vigilante tactics,” referring to recordings taken inside factory farm operations”

    I would submit that us normal people find the “extremists” to be those who engage in cruelty for the fun of it. Taking the side of eradicating cruelty is not an extreme position!

    Go get em’ ALDF.

  25. ellen golden says:

    “Let’s get laws on the books to protect the voiceless animals as well as laws that prosecute the owners of the farms. Send a message by passing laws that impose huge fines for any owner that allows this and looks the other way. Prosecute the abusers to the fullest extent by imposing jail terms and fines. Lets protect those who expose these atrocities.”

  26. GL says:

    An opposition to such a thing is surely admitting guilt to cruelty and to want to continue doing it with out worry of being held accountable for it.

  27. Anonymous says:

    We need go go anonymous on the Idaho agriculture legislatures. We need to go anonymous on Gov. Butch Otter’s office. Let us give this man some major CONSTIPATION!!!!

  28. Lina Nelson says:

    This law is Godless and cruel. These people will have to face their creator one day. This is all about money and the love of money is the root of all evil.

  29. Susan T. says:

    visit the creep Butch Otto & send message to also boycott potatoes, ski resorts!!!

  30. Johanna Martin says:

    This has to be stopped it is outrageous.

  31. Marilyn O'Loughlin says:

    Ridiculous! Any animal abuse filmed should be evidence and taken seriously and the abuser prosecuted! Total madness!

  32. Lesley Blissett says:

    I am not at all surprised that Idaho is the State that wants to gag any adverse publicity about the way animals are kept in the State! A State that shoots Wolves from the air and is determined to eradicate the Wolf population within Idaho has to be a state that has a lot to hide! Ignoring humane standards for animal care/husbandry just demonstrates what a backward state Idaho is! Perhaps it could go as far as saying that farmers/ranchers, animal keepers & puppy farmers are savages, because only those who do not apply humane standards are frightened of allowing undercover investigations! If all is as it should be then undercover investigations would not present a problem!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Idaho STINKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  33. Patrice says:

    Is it that difficult to find good, dependable, honest people to work at factory farms? They seem to hire the most sadistic monsters out there. Part of the problem is some owners are no better than their low life employees. This is frightening.

  34. robin burt says:


  35. Susan Martin says:

    This makes me sick to my stomach. reading about the cruel acts conducted by people, kicking pigs in their genitals, poking hot rods into their eyes and private, senstive parts..what kind of monsters do you have that you wish to protect? I hope and pray that every unkind act, every cruel poke and kick will be repaid 10 fold when that person meets his or her maker..Animals save our lives by giving theirs…the LEAST you can do is show them some respect. The people we stole our land from thanked each and every animal that gave it’s life for them…we need to show some appreciation for the lives that are given and taken in order for us to survive. SHOW SOME RESPECT YOU MONSTERS!!

  36. xhen says:

    why is the little man boasting that he endorses workers and owners the rights to treat animals cruelly – that mr dkless endorses human aggressive tendencies towards animals – perhaps his wife could be seen as a cow to be treated like a machine of bearing male offspring to further his family name?

  37. I went to buy potatos last weekend & picked up a bag & saw that they were “product of Idaho,” so i put them back down and moved on :)

  38. Sharon says:

    Abuse should never be hidden, allowed or tolerated. I am rally disappointed in the governor and the entire state. Is money more important than civility? How does this continue to go on?

  39. Sharon says:

    I wouldn’t spend a dime in Idaho because of this legislation and I live close by in Utah. I’d love to see the state, but not unless this wicked law is done away with completely. What a tragedy such a thing as ag-gag exists.

  40. Peter muller says:

    Trouble is small family farms are being replaced by the more profitable mega farms

  41. Angie says:

    Can you help this in Indiana as well?

  42. Patti Iman says:

    What goes around comes around.

  43. Marcia Mueller says:

    The ag-gag laws are nothing but self-serving and cynical attempts to continue the business of abusing animals. So often when undercover investigations reveal the extent of the cruelty that is routine in facilities, the owners/managers claim to be horrified and swear they do not tolerate such behavior. Then why do they seem to consistently hire the sadistic losers who abuse the animals. Such people seem to gravitate to animal facilities to find victims. If the owners/managers cared, they would monitor the workers, train them better, fire them as soon as any cruel behavior is noted, and have monitored security cameras on the operation at all times. But, no, they want laws to criminalize the people who are trying to save the animals from further abuse from the greedy ag-gag owners and the substandard human beings who work for them. These laws should never be allowed to pass, and the legislators who vote for them should be called out for the ag-gag panderers that they are. Idaho already has a bad reputation for the hunters who can’t stand to leave anything alive, from wolves to elk, etc., etc.

Be a Partner in Protection!

Donate monthly to help animals.

or make a one-time gift »

ALDF's Online Store

Help fund our lifesaving work!


Stay Connected

Sign up for Action Alerts.

Join Us

Follow ALDF on these networks:

Stay Connected

Sign up for Action Alerts.