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Coalition Wages Legal Challenge to Idaho's 'Ag-Gag' Law

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A diverse coalition filed a federal lawsuit on Monday to overturn Idaho's recently enacted 'ag-gag' law - legislation critics say makes 'documenting cruelty the crime, rather than the cruelty itself.'

Signed by Idaho Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter at the end of last month, the law criminalizes those who secretly document abuse of animals at agricultural facilities.

Following the law's enactment, Matthew Dominguez of The Humane Society of the United States wrote:

[W]itnessing and documenting cruelty is now the crime, rather than the cruelty itself. Even employees and journalists who document misconduct could face jail time, whether it's mistreatment of animals, food safety concerns, sexual harassment, embezzlement or environmental crimes. Needless to say, this law poses serious threats to constitutional freedoms of speech and the press. It also casts even further distrust in the minds of Americans about how animals are treated in our food system.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which include the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), the American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho, Idaho Concerned Area Residents for the Environment, the Center for Food Safety and the journal CounterPunch, charge that the new law is unconstitutional because it criminalizes free speech and freedom of the press.

"What concerns us is that when the government tells us what we can do and can document, we lose not only freedom of speech but freedom of thought," Leo Morales of the ACLU of Idaho said in an interview with Common Dreams.

Additionally, Morales continued, the problem is that the law gives preferential speech to the agricultural industry over the speech of those challenging that industry. The law goes against the Constitution because both are supposed to be protected speech, yet the government is choosing to protect one over another.          


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