BOISE – A coalition of animal activists, civil rights groups and media organizations sued Idaho on Monday over a new law that makes it illegal to secretly film animal abuse at agricultural facilities.
The groups filed the lawsuit in Boise’s U.S. District Court, asking a federal judge to strike down what they call an “ag gag” law. The coalition contends that the law curtails freedom of speech and makes gathering proof of animal abuse harsher than the penalty for animal cruelty itself.
Idaho Gov. Butch Otter signed the law last month after Idaho’s $2.5 billion dairy industry complained that videos showing cows being abused at a Southern Idaho dairy unfairly hurt business.
Otter and state Attorney General Lawrence Wasden are named as defendants
The Los Angeles-based animal rights group Mercy For Animals released the videos, which showed workers at Bettencourt Dairy beating, stomping and otherwise abusing cows in 2012.
Proponents of the law say it prevents animal rights groups from unfairly targeting agricultural businesses. Bob Naerebout, who heads the Idaho Dairymen’s Association that promoted the measure, said Mercy For Animals unfairly tried to persuade Bettencourt Dairy’s customers to stop buying its milk products even after the company fired the five workers who were filmed mistreating cows and cooperated with the prosecution against the employees.
Among the plaintiffs are the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho, the Center for Food Safety, Farm Sanctuary, River’s Wish Animal Sanctuary, Western Watersheds Project, Sandpoint Vegetarians, and Idaho Concerned Area Residents for the Environment.