Challenging North Carolina’s Ag-Gag Law

The Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a North Carolina law designed to deter whistleblowers and undercover investigators from publicizing information about corporate misconduct.

Updated

December 19, 2018

Work Type

Litigation

Status

Active

Discovery February 1 - July 1, 2019

Next Step

Dispositive motions due September 3, 2019

In 2016, the Animal Legal Defense Fund — with a coalition of animal protection, consumer rights, food safety, and whistleblower protection organizations — filed a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a North Carolina law designed to deter whistleblowers and undercover investigators from publicizing information about corporate misconduct.

The North Carolina law is part of a growing number of so-called “Ag-Gag laws” passed by state legislators across the country. The bills, which are pushed by lobbyists for corporate agriculture companies, are an attempt to escape scrutiny over unsafe practices and animal abuses by threatening liability for those who expose these improper and, in many cases, illegal practices.

No federal laws govern the condition in which farmed animals are raised and most state anti-cruelty laws exempt farmed animals.

Under the law, organizations and journalists who conduct undercover investigations, and individuals who expose improper or criminal conduct by North Carolina employers, are susceptible to suit and substantial damages if they make such evidence available to the public or the press.

Our lawsuit argues that the law is unconstitutional under both the U.S. and state constitution, violating the right to free speech, the right to a free press, the right to petition our government, and the Equal Protection Clause.

The case was dismissed by the district court in 2017, for lack of standing. On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit reversed the district court’s decision, ruling that our case can go forward.

On December 19, 2018 the Court ruled from the bench and denied the North Carolina’s motion to dismiss on all federal claims. The Court did dismiss the corresponding state constitutional claims.

Stop Ag-Gag Laws

Undercover investigations and whistleblowers have exposed some of the worst aspects of factory farming, but Ag-Gag laws punish people who speak out about cruelty in animal agriculture. Voice your opposition.

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