Idaho’s Ag-Gag law, recently signed by Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter, has been challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho in federal court, and on Monday the organization asked the court to strike down the law.
ACLU was joined by PETA, the Center for Food Safety and other activist groups in the lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court in Boise. The plaintiffs allege that the Ag-Gag law is unconstitutional and violates free speech rights as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.
The law passed in Idaho is quite different from other “ag-gag” laws and measures in six other U.S. states in that Idaho’s law criminalizes the video, audio, or image recording – i.e. collection of proof by activists against animal cruelty – on federally managed or public lands.
Besides criminalizing the collection of proof of animal cruelty, Idaho’s ag-gag law also makes activists who try to collect such proof liable to pay for restitution amounting to double the damage suffered by a business, due to publication and circulation of such proof of animal cruelty. And the hearing that determines the restitution amount does not have a jury trial.
So, irrespective of animal cruelty being proved by those who collect proof, activists are still open to punitive restitution proceedings that can leave them bankrupt, besides the one year in jail and $5,000 fine.
The court filing states, “Notably, this law criminalizes efforts to document criminal behavior in a workplace.” The plaintiffs also argue that the law violates the 14th Amendment as it is motivated by animosity toward animal protection advocates.
The law was passed in response to the release of video footage by animal rights organization Mercy for Animals that depicted the proof of violent and abusive behavior including sexual assault of animals in a corporate dairy in Idaho.