Last week the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit ruled that Wyoming’s “data-gag” law could violate the First Amendment, reversing a lower court’s decision to uphold the law and sending it back for further consideration.
This law was intended to silence researchers and whistleblowers who take notes or photographs, gather water samples, or collect other environmental data to document pollution on public lands next to factory farms.
The federal court found that the law—which was challenged by a coalition of nonprofits, including Western Watersheds Project, Natural Resource Defense Council, National Press Photographers Association, and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals—implicated important free-speech concerns.
In another major blow to animal abusers, the state of Utah waived its right last week to appeal a federal district court ruling in July that found the state’s ag-gag law unconstitutional. This means the lower court’s decision stands and remains a victory in the fight to overturn these dangerous laws. Filed in 2013, the Utah lawsuit was the first of its kind. It was brought by a group of organizations, including the Animal Legal Defense Fund and PETA.
In 2011 the factory farming industry started pushing hard for ag-gag laws designed to prevent animal protection groups from exposing animal abuse and other crimes at their facilities in dozens of states. Most of these bills were defeated, but a handful of states passed them into law. With the laws in Idaho and Utah overturned, only ag-gag laws in Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, and North Carolina remain on the books.
Meanwhile, undercover investigations by Mercy For Animals and other groups continue to incite groundbreaking corporate animal welfare policy changes, new and improved laws to protect farmed animals and consumers, felony and misdemeanor convictions of animal abusers, and the closure of especially corrupt animal facilities.
We are committed to providing this vital public service for as long as it is needed, and we are grateful to have our right to do it upheld. To learn more about MFA and how you can support our lifesaving work, click here.