It’s been a great week for advocates of free speech and animal rights: We’re gaining more momentum than ever when it comes to challenging “ag-gag laws, which often make undercover investigations into factory farms illegal. First, on Tuesday, federal courts ordered the state of Idaho to pay $260,000 in legal fees to animal rights groups after the state’s ag-gag laws were deemed unconstitutional. Now, animal rights groups are building on that momentum and have filed a lawsuit in Kansas challenging the constitutionality of the state’s ag-gag law.
In place since 1990, the Kansas ag-gag law is the oldest on the books. Ag-gag laws—lobbied for by the factory farming industry—subject undercover investigators from groups like Mercy For Animals to large fines and even jail time. That these undercover investigators reveal horrific animal abuse that violates many companies’ policies doesn’t matter.
Luckily, a coalition including the Animal Legal Defense Fund, Center for Food Safety, Public Justice, and two Kansas-area animal protection organizations is now challenging this injustice with a new lawsuit that says the Kansas ag-gag law violates the First Amendment and has deterred undercover investigations at animal facilities for too long.
“The Kansas ag-gag law has silenced whistleblowers seeking to protect animals from cruelty for far too long, Stephen Wells, executive director of Animal Legal Defense Fund, said in a statement. “This unconstitutional law exists solely to protect the financial interests of industries that abuse animals, and it will not hold up in court.
We at MFA couldn’t agree more.
The ag-gag law struck down in the recent Idaho victory was the direct result of one of our undercover investigations; footage from 2012 shows workers at Bettencourt Dairies in southern Idaho beating and stomping on cows and even using a tractor to drag a cow by a chain attached to her neck.
Undercover investigations are one of the—if not the—most important ways we get the truth about factory farming out to the public. These laws are designed to make whistleblowing—whether to expose unjust and unhygienic conditions for animals, workers, or both—even riskier.
With the legal precedent set by the overturned ag-gag laws in states including Idaho and Utah, this important new lawsuit may well see the Kansas law overturned. Hopefully, one by one, all these unjust laws will be struck down.
No matter where you live, you can take a stand against factory farm corruption by refusing to pay for it. Please click here to learn how to move toward compassionate plant-based eating, and share videos from MFA’s undercover investigations to help inform your social network.