Anti-whistleblower Legislation

Anti-whistleblower Legislation - Photo by Farm Sanctuary

Undercover investigations by animal advocates are an important tool in exposing the cruel realities of factory farming. However, instead of passing laws to ensure farm animals are protected from abuse and neglect on factory farms, industrial agriculture continues to introduce anti-whistleblower legislation (often referred to as “ag-gag” bills) to prevent the investigation and exposure of cruel conditions endured by animals at these facilities.

Ten states have passed anti-whistleblower laws (Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, and Utah). There have been attempts in many other states to pass this type of legislation (Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Vermont, and Wyoming), but these attempts have failed—in large part because legislators have come to understand how harmful these bills are, not only to farm animals, but also to the environment, workers, surrounding communities, and free speech.

Animal and consumer advocates have challenged some ag-gag laws in court. In 2015, a federal district court found Idaho’s ag-gag law to be unconstitutional. The state appealed, and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the decision in part, upholding the lower court’s ruling that it is unconstitutional to ban recording at factory farms. Utah’s ag-gag law was found to be unconstitutional in 2017. The Utah Attorney General’s office decided not to appeal the case. A lawsuit filed against the North Carolina ag-gag law was initially dismissed due to lack of standing, but the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the lawsuit in 2018 and it is ongoing. Iowa’s ag-gag law was challenged as unconstitutional in 2017 and that case is also still pending. Such lawsuits may deter other states from passing ag-gag legislation.

Please visit our action eAlert page to see how you can help stop an anti-whistleblower bill from becoming law in your state.