Idaho “Ag-Gag” Law Ruled Unconstitutional in Federal Court

Posted on August 3, 2015

Victory for Animals: District Court Rules Anti-Whistleblower Law Violates U.S. Constitution

For immediate release:


Nicole Roth, Animal Legal Defense Fund: 415-615-2016 (cell)

cow-cc-aristocrats-hat-article-image-230pxBOISE — Idaho’s Ag-Gag law is unconstitutional, the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho ruled today. In a landmark victory for a broad-based public interest coalition of national nonprofits, including the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Idaho, and Center for Food Safety (CFS), the court held that the Ag-Gag law, Idaho Code sec. 18-7042, violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Today’s decision marks the first time a court has declared an Ag-Gag statute unconstitutional.

The statute criminalizes undercover investigations that document animal welfare, worker safety, and food safety violations at an “agricultural production facility,” thus “gagging” speech that is critical of industrial agriculture, including speech that advances significant public interests in protecting Idahoans’ safety. Under this law, journalists, workers, activists, and members of the public can be convicted for documenting animal cruelty or life-threatening safety violations. The court ruled that this statute violates the First Amendment by suppressing speech that criticizes factory farms and was motivated by unconstitutional animus against animal advocates—which is a violation of the Equal Protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Undercover video and photography has exposed numerous shocking practices that are “industry standards.” These pervasive, systematic procedures include routine mutilation, including debeaking birds with electrically heated blades and castrating male animals by slicing open their scrotum and ripping their testicles out without pain relief or anesthesia and intensive confinement—where animals are literally unable to turn around for months on end. Exposes have also detailed the sickening farming conditions resulting in contaminated meat products—posing serious health risks to the public—and life threatening conditions for farm workers.

These investigations, and the subsequent media coverage, have led to food safety recalls, citations for environmental and labor violations, evidence of health code violations, plant closures, criminal convictions, and civil litigation. The Idaho statute unconstitutionally and unwisely prohibits efforts to bring violations of state and federal laws relating to food safety, environmental protection, and animal handling to the attention of the public and law enforcement.

Ag-Gag laws are notoriously unsupported by the public. Nationwide thirty-two similar Ag-Gag measures have failed. Currently, seven states have Ag-Gag laws on the books. This Idaho decision is just the first step in defeating similar Ag-Gag laws across the country.

Interview Opportunities:

  • Matthew Liebman, Senior Attorney, ALDF
  • Justin Marceau, Of Counsel, ALDF, and Professor of Constitutional Law
  • Matthew Strugar, Director of Litigation, PETA
  • Paige M. Tomaselli, Senior Attorney, Center for Food Safety

Plaintiffs include ALDF, PETA, ACLU, CFS, Farm Sanctuary, River’s Wish Animal Sanctuary, Western Watersheds Project, Sandpoint Vegetarians, Idaho Concerned Area Residents for the Environment (ICARE), the political journal CounterPunch, Farm Forward, journalist Will Potter, Professor James McWilliams, investigator Monte Hickman, investigative journalist Blair Koch, and undercover investigations consultant Daniel Hauff. The plaintiffs are represented by in-house counsel, Leslie Brueckner of Public Justice, Justin Marceau of the University of Denver Sturm College of Law, and the law firm of Maria E. Andrade.

For more information go to

A copy of the court’s decision (PDF) and the original complaint (PDF) are available for download.



18 thoughts on “Idaho “Ag-Gag” Law Ruled Unconstitutional in Federal Court

  1. Cynthia Davie says:

    Awesome news!!! Thank you all for standing up for the welfare of the animals behind closed doors. Keep up the great work!!!

    1. Dr. Joseph Krausz says:

      Congratulations on a job well done by ALDF. All the ag-gag laws are such a blatant violation of the Constitutional protected rights of freedom of speech and equal protction under the law that this courageous and ethical decision by Judge Winmill should give momentum toward eventually repealing the other ag-gag laws in various states. The momentum will now start moving in the right direction, and the perverse practice of deep-pocketed animal product companies buying state legislator’s votes by will finally be blocked.

  2. teresa willmann says:

    I am so glad that they realized that this is unconstitutional!

  3. Thank you to the brave – honest & compassionate judges in the
    judicial system that protect our
    1st amendment & Animal Rights.
    Society is Evolving & Will No
    Longer Tolerate animal cruelty &
    Companies hiding the crimes

  4. chaleen hill says:

    Thank god… its a start..

  5. EYG says:

    This ruling has me in tears. Happy tears! I can finally have faith in the justice system. These ag-gag laws are so un American and dirty, thank God our Constitutional rights have been recognized. Corporate protectionism politicians, stick ag-gag up your unworthy asses.

  6. Smitty says:

    If you don’t have anything to hide why pass a gag law? Why not just use practices that are humane and safe? This country is not going to stop eating meat, but we can spend the extra 5 cents per pound of beef to make sure they are killed humanely. Make sense?

  7. Christine says:

    What does this mean as far as the practicalities?

    Is the Idaho Ag Gag law is now repealed? What happens next?

    This is amazing news!

  8. Don Scott says:

    Congratulations! This is outstandingly great news! Much thanks on behalf of all advocates and most important all the voiceless for getting this into the court and making the case for the illegality of such an unconscionable piece of legislation designed by the American Legislative Exchange Council. Hopefully this precedent — this verdict — can play a role in defining this law unconstitutional in other states that passed it!

  9. save them all says:

    Hallelujah. … now maybe the justice system will recognize the illegal use of gag contracts and confidentiality agreements forced upon employees, volunteers and animal rescues forbidding them to speak out about cruelty they witness without fear of backlash. Specifically section 1983, whistleblowers, and our basic 1st amendment rights. It’s time all our suffering animals have a voice.

  10. Janet says:

    Thank you for your Valor!!!

  11. cindy says:

    I hope you go after the scumbag lawmakers in North Carolina that bought themselves a law, despite that the people of the state did not want it. The meat industry made a big campain donation to these scumbag legislators. These legislators could care less about the people that they are suppose to represent.

  12. Rachel says:

    Great work ALDF! This is definitely reason to celebrate! Hopefully, when other ag-gag laws are presented to judges in the future they will follow the example set out by Judge Winmill. The ways in which animals are raised in industries should be made public. Otherwise it is all too likely for hideous abuses to occur. Thanks again for being the voice for the voiceless!

  13. Linda Dooley says:

    Great win for everyone! Congratulations

  14. Priscilla Clancy says:

    The humane organizations and attorneys that fought this agriculture gag order in court and won the case for the factory farm animals are heroes. Everyone who cares but feels helpless about doing anything can feel better knowing they can donate to these humane organizations that are out there
    fighting the battle against factory farms and their profit margins.

  15. justan says:

    Thank you ALDF! What would have happened if you were not there ready and Willing to tirelessly Work for these Animals, these Living, suffering creatures! I live here in Idaho. I know the dealings that go on I see the lawsuit was ALDF vs Otter/Wasden – the governor and His Attorney! Anyone know “Butch” is a Big Rancher??? Pro Defending the rights of Agriculture and poor ranchers- of which he is one. wink wink I have long not understood Why the Idaho HSUS president Lisa Kauffman did not do Anything. I don’t believe she even wrote a note of disapproval. I know in a statement when she first became president, regarding animal rights and Dept. of Agriculture she stated “I really want to work with those guys” I didn’t care to read anything after that. It would be easy, I would think, to go to the ID HSUS page and see what all has been done via Idaho HSUS. I just thank you so much for Traveling to Idaho to address Idaho’s animal issues. It is so inspiring to know a wonderful, strong group as yourself is watching over Idaho.

  16. Dennis Dawkins says:

    Like thy got away whit murder I sign up 69 week not a dime story is ture

  17. Dennis Dawkins says:

    If I can get my case open to show evrdents that I didn’t get to show like 9-11 never forget thanks dnnis.thank

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