The state of Idaho has filed an appeal to the 9th Circuit of the U.S. District Court decision overturning the state’s “ag-gag law,” the law passed by the state Legislature making it a crime to surreptitiously videotape agricultural operations. Idaho lawmakers approved the law in 2014 after the state’s $2.5 billion dairy industry complained that videos of cows being abused at a southern Idaho dairy filmed in 2012 unfairly hurt their business. 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.
The court invalidated the law in August, holding that it violated First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It was the first federal court ruling on an “ag-gag” law; eight states have passed them. Last week, the groups that filed the lawsuit, led by the Animal Legal Defense Fund, filed a motion with the court asking that the state pay more than $250,000 to cover their attorney fees and costs.
Todd Dvorak, spokesman for Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, said the office had no comment today on the notice of appeal, which was filed late yesterday. Ag groups including the Idaho Dairymen’s Association had been urging the state to appeal the ruling.
In the August ruling, U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill found that the law’s “primary purpose is to protect agricultural facility owners by, in effect, suppressing speech critical of animal-agriculture practices.” He ruled that evidence indicated the law was “intended to silence animal welfare activists, or other whistleblowers who seek to publish speech critical of the agricultural production industry.”