Challenging Wisconsin’s Hunting Statute as a First Amendment Violation

The Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a lawsuit in federal court aiming to strike down a Wisconsin statute banning photographing, videotaping, approaching, or even “maintaining a visual or physical proximity to” a hunter.

Updated

January 27, 2017

Work Type

Litigation

Status

Active

Next Step

Awaiting Decision on Motion to Dismiss

In 2017, the Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a lawsuit in federal court aiming to strike down a Wisconsin statute banning photographing, videotaping, approaching, or even “maintaining a visual or physical proximity to” a hunter. In addition to criminal penalties, the law subjects violators to civil lawsuits brought by the hunters and trappers themselves.

The lawsuit argues that the law’s restrictions violate the First Amendment — the same constitutional rights two federal judges ruled had been violated by Idaho’s and Utah’s Ag-Gag statutes. Just like these Ag-Gag laws, we argued that the Wisconsin statute at issue is unconstitutional for suppressing speech critical of animal exploitation.

The three plaintiffs in the lawsuit, represented by attorneys from the Animal Legal Defense Fund and a Milwaukee-based law firm, are Wisconsin residents who, as a documentarian, journalist and activist, each rely on the types of monitoring the statute prohibits. The plaintiffs say hunters in the state have been emboldened by the law’s protections, leading to more frequent and aggressive confrontations.

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