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Judge Rules Ban on Filming Factory Farms Unconstitutional

by Countable | 1.10.18

What’s the story?

A federal appeals court ruled Idaho’s ban on spying at farms, dairies, and slaughterhouses violates free speech rights.

In her ruling, Judge M. Margaret McKeown stated:

"We are sensitive to journalists’ constitutional right to investigate and publish exposes on the agricultural industry. Matters related to food safety and animal cruelty are of significant public importance."

Why does it matter?

In 2012, animal rights organization Mercy For Animals released undercover footage of cows being physically and sexually abused at Idaho’s Bettencourt Dairy factory farm.

In response, as The Salt Lake Tribune explained, "Idaho lawmakers passed the law making it a crime to surreptitiously videotape agriculture operations in 2014 after the state’s $2.5 billion dairy industry complained that videos of cows being abused at a southern Idaho dairy unfairly hurt their businesses."

Idaho was one of almost a dozen states with "ag gag" legislation. Similar legal challenges are currently pending in Utah and North Carolina.

Though filming will now be allowed, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals also ruled that "the law correctly criminalized those who made false statements to obtain records at an agricultural facility," the Tribune reported.

What do you think?

Do you support undercover filming in farms and slaughterhouses? Or does it unfairly hurt businesses? Should there be federal "ag gag" legislation? Hit Take Action and tell your reps, then share your thoughts below.

—Josh Herman

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(Photo Credit: Brasil2 / iStockphoto)

Countable

Written by Countable

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(43)
  • Alan
    01/10/2018
    ···

    I’m a conservative who eats meat. Because the farms are producing something for the general public, the general public should know exactly what is going on. Nothing should be a secret, this has nothing to do with free speech or the 1st Amendment. I do believe animals that are to be killed for food, should still have a life free of harm and abuse. Just because they will be used for food, doesn’t mean humane treatment should be exempt. If you fail to provide a humane life and free from abuse, you should be dealt with accordingly.

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  • Jr
    01/10/2018
    ···

    Hiding the torture of animals so people can eat a hamburger “in peace” is moral duplicity. Sunlight is the disinfectant of social interaction. Reverse Ag Gag laws.

    Like (24)
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  • Ticktock
    01/10/2018
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    “The Jungle” was written in 1906 by Upton Sinclair. This one book turn the meatpacking industry on it’s ear by displaying the hazardous working conditions, filth/unsanitary handling of the products and the treatment of the slaughtered animals. This book changed the entire industry. In an age of visual input not many read but pictures replace thousands of words. The health and care of food stuffs is of untold importance. Think of the numerous food recalls, the length of time it takes, the number of people who are sickened or die and the reduction of nutrition in the food stuffs due to handling. The health and care of our food results in a healthy population and these corporate farms bare watching closely just like the meatpacking industry in 1906 whether in written format or video.

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  • John
    01/10/2018
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    The right to know what & how happens to our food supply should be codified in law, not hidden by politicians doing the bidding of Big Ag.

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  • BeStrong
    01/10/2018
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    When the lights were not present we could not see the atrocities. Thank you for keeping the light burning.

    Like (15)
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  • RadicalModerate
    01/10/2018
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    If conservatives will argue that regulations are overreaching and consumers control markets, then consumers need to know what horrible practices companies engage in.

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  • Jennifer
    01/10/2018
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    Knowing someone is watching may be the only way inhumane practices are curtailed and we as the customer of the end product know what is going into our food supply. This ban was an overreach and unconstitutional. Seeing how the sausage gets made, so to speak, is every bit as much as deregulation as any other act.

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  • Lexpost
    01/10/2018
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    The corporate agricultural industry has shown time and time again that they are willing to put public health at risk in order to fatten the bottom line by a few bucks. Without an agriculture department with the power and personnel to keep our food supply safe, the proverbial fox is guarding the henhouse.

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  • Karen
    01/11/2018
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    If you don’t have anything to hide, why would filming matter. It’s not a question of privacy, it’s a question of keeping our foods safe. Do you want to eat in a filthy restaurant? Why would you, then, want to eat food from an unsanitary food provider?

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  • Donna
    01/10/2018
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    If there is nothing to hide, why can't the cameras roll? Obviously, mistreatment of animals in favor of profits is something that these businesses believe should not see the light of day. Americans have the right to choose who they determine should provide their food. Isn't that what a free market dictates? If a business is being hurt by exposure, maybe it should reconsider how it does business, not pressure local legislators to protect their unethical behavior through frivolous laws.

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  • Steve
    01/10/2018
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    Large company farms should want to know if their employees are performing their jobs unprofessionally. They should want to invite reporters into their facilities to review their work environment and free advertising. Companies who do not want to know if their employees are not performing their jobs to company standards should be closed! Animals must be treated humanely under most circumstances (unless one is being attacked). Large company farms are destroying the yeoman farms. America was founded and built by yeoman farms. It is truly a shame that America is becoming more and more greed driven and commercialized. We need government to reward people that create small businesses (small farms) that could employ youth during their summer vacations and others throughout the year. Small farms cannot compete with company farms!

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  • Matthew
    01/10/2018
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    Trespassing to film on private property is not protected speech. We have fences for reasons. We have borders for reasons. Just because you think your cause is just does not invalidate someone else right to privacy.

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  • Stephanie
    01/10/2018
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    Citizens have a right to video. Why should those farms object unless they are doing unsanitary and unsafe treatment of animals. An objection to me signifies that they are trying to hide their inhumane practices

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  • Azrael
    01/10/2018
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    At least the judicial system loves our constitution Or at least some of our judicial system Mistreatment of any living thing is criminal It needs to be brought out in the light and addressed

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  • Terry
    01/10/2018
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    Absolutely this is America people.

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  • Loretta
    01/11/2018
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    If we are buying and ingesting these foods, as consumers we have every right to know everything about its preparation for sale. Animal or vegetable

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  • Diane
    01/10/2018
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    Any assaults on our 1st amendment rights to investigate, report, film, or share information on issues not related to national security must be met with absolute resistance.

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  • Pru
    01/11/2018
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    Public has every right to know what is going on, and the conditions that are in humane and crowding that can cause disease

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  • Alise
    01/11/2018
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    It is unethical both to obscure the workings of the American food industry and to attempt to hide the abuse suffered by animals in factory farms. Clean up the despicable behavior and practices of this industry rather than try and sweep them under the rug.

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  • Deborah
    01/11/2018
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    This has nothing to do with free speech and should not be used in for this situation. So any form of cruelty to an animal is free speech ? How can she get away with that? This industry is killing us and animals from the feed to the process . Journalists should be allowed to journal this. What are they hiding?

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