This week, the United States District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina reinstated a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of North Carolina’s “ag-gag” law. The suit was brought by a coalition including Farm Sanctuary, along with other animal protection, press freedom, food safety, and government watchdog groups.
North Carolina is one of a growing number of states to pass “ag-gag” laws, which are meant to criminalize whistleblowers and protect corporate wrongdoing from exposure. They were originally designed to prevent the public from learning about factory-farming cruelty, but North Carolina’s version is written so broadly that it would also ban undercover investigations of all private entities, including nursing homes and daycare centers.
North Carolina’s ag-gag law is also particularly troubling because the state is home to more than 9 million pigs, making at the second-largest pig-farming state in the country. Farm Sanctuary has been working to expose the devastating impact of concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) in North Carolina through our Meet Your Neighbors project, a campaign exposing the injustices of factory farming.
So far, more than two dozen states have introduced ag-gag legislation, and opponents of factory farming have defeated these bills in a number of states, including Arizona, Florida, Minnesota, and New York. But about one-fifth of U.S. states have actually enacted such legislation. In June of this year, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals became the first federal appellate court to strike down provisions of an ag-gag law as a violation of the First Amendment, holding against Idaho’s ban on recording conditions at factory farms and slaughterhouses. Farm Sanctuary was a plaintiff in that case.
We will continue to keep you updated as the North Carolina lawsuit progresses. The plaintiffs in the suit, represented by Public Justice, are People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the Center for Food Safety, Animal Legal Defense Fund, Farm Sanctuary, Food & Water Watch, the Government Accountability Project, Farm Forward, and the American Association for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).