Editor’s Note: We didn’t need a ruling on this. The law was always unconstitutional.
Via Tech Dirt:
We’ve written a few times about the ridiculousness of so-called ag-gag laws, that prohibit photographing or videotaping farms (sometimes even from public land). These laws were pushed for heavily by large industrial farmers who were sick of animal rights advocates getting images and videos of the conditions in farms and slaughterhouses that were questionable. Whatever you might think of the practices of those advocates, banning taking photographs or videos seemed like a really questionable move — which would have a chilling effect on whistleblowers of all kinds. It seemed like it had to be unconstitutional — and a court in Idaho agrees, declaring that state’s law unconstitutional.
The court does not mince words, noting that under this law, Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle would likely have been illegal:
The story of Upton Sinclair provides a clear illustration of how the First Amendment is implicated by the statute. Sinclair, in order to gather material for his novel, The Jungle, misrepresented his identity so he could get a job at a meat-packing plant in Chicago. William A. Bloodworth, Jr., UPTON SINCLAIR 45–48 (1977). Sinclair’s novel, a devastating expose of the meat-packing industry that revealed the intolerable labor conditions and unsanitary working conditions in the Chicago stockyards in the early 20th century, “sparked an uproar” and led to the passage of the Federal Meat Inspection Act, as well as the Pure Food and Drug Act…. Today, however, Upton Sinclair’s conduct would expose him to criminal prosecution under § 18-7042.
The State responds that § 18-7042 is not designed to suppress speech critical of certain agricultural operations but instead is intended to protect private property and the privacy of agricultural facility owners. But, as the story of Upton Sinclair illustrates, an agricultural facility’s operations that affect food and worker safety are not exclusively a private matter. Food and worker safety are matters of public concern. Moreover, laws against trespass, fraud, theft, and defamation already exist. These types of laws serve the property and privacy interests the State professes to protect through the passage of § 18- 7042, but without infringing on free speech rights.
With this background and context, the Court finds that § 18-7042 violates the First Amendment right to free speech. In addition, the Court finds that § 18-7042 violates the Equal Protection Clause because it was motivated in substantial part by animus towards animal welfare groups, and because it impinges on free speech, a fundamental right.
The ruling also highlights how the politicians behind this bill barely hid their desire to shut up those darn animal rights activists, who they sometimes referred to as “terrorists” in explaining why this bill was necessary.
(Read more at Tech Dirt)
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