A federal district court in Utah has ruled the state’s “ag-gag” law is unconstitutional. The law made it illegal for an individual to use false pretenses to gain access to or surveil an agricultural operation. Proponents of the bill contended the law was necessary to ensure the safety of farm workers and animals, but the court found the ban violated the First Amendment’s protection of free speech, noting that “suppressing broad swaths of protected speech without justification” was not a constitutionally permissible means to protect agricultural interests.
Several states have implemented similar ag-gag laws in response to undercover investigations that revealed rampant mistreatment of farm animals. These laws seek to silence whistleblowers and allow factory farms to hide inhumane conditions at their facilities. This ruling is a win for animals and their advocates in Utah, and it provides encouragement for ag-gag challenges in other jurisdictions.