Target: Judge B. Lynn Winmill
Goal: Applaud judge for overturning Idaho’s ban on undercover videotaping in factory farms.
A federal judge ruled that an Idaho ban on undercover surveillance inside factory farms is unconstitutional thanks in part to petitions like ForceChange’s Oppose “Ag-Gag” – Allow Animal Investigations On Farms. The ban was introduced after a secret video exposed cruelty and neglect in a large dairy farm.
Judge B. Lynn Winmill ruled that the “ag-gag” (agriculture gag) law violated the constitutional right to free speech. “An agricultural facility’s operations that affect food and worker safety are not exclusively a private matter,” said the judge. “Food and worker safety are matters of public concern.”
The “ag-gag” law was passed last year after an undercover investigator from Mercy for Animals recorded a video which exposed worker cruelty and neglect at Bettencourt Dairies, Idaho’s largest dairy farm. The 2012 video showed workers beating, shocking, and kicking cows. It also showed them dragging the animals with chains around their necks.
The state’s $2.5 billion dairy industry lobbied state legislators to make it a crime to film inside agricultural facilities. Governor Otter agreed and signed the bill into law. Activists then lobbied the court to overturn the ban, saying it silenced whistleblowers and halted free speech. The judge agreed: “The effect of the statute will be to suppress speech by undercover investigators and whistleblowers concerning topics of great public importance: the safety of the public food supply, the safety of agricultural workers, the treatment and health of farm animals, and the impact of business activities on the environment.”
Applaud this move towards protecting public health, animal welfare, and the First Amendment.
Dear Judge Winmill,
I’m writing to thank you for ruling that the “ag-gag” law prohibiting undercover investigations into animal welfare and food safety is unconstitutional.
When corporations attempt to stifle free speech and criminalize whistleblowers, they must be stopped. The fact that the dairy industry was more concerned with the existence of the video rather than the facts shown on the video demonstrates the need for vigilance and oversight in our food production facilities.
I applaud you for taking a stand to protect public health and animal welfare.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Visivasnc