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VICTORY: Kansas’s Ag-Gag law has been ruled unconstitutional

Kansas is the fourth state (after Utah, Idaho, and Iowa) to see their Ag-Gag law struck down. But laws in Alabama, North Carolina, Montana, North Dakota, and Arkansas remain standing.

KELSEY PIPER: ‘Kansas cannot bar people from conducting undercover investigations on factory farms, the a federal court in Kansas ruled Wednesday. For nearly 30 years — since 1990 — a Kansas state law made it illegal to take photographs or record video in a factory farm or slaughterhouse “with the intent to damage an enterprise conducted at the animal facility.”

The law was the earliest example of what are now called “ag-gag” laws, which criminalize undercover investigations, often by animal welfare groups, that reveal abuses on farms. Since Kansas’s law was enacted, half a dozen states have passed such laws — and more have considered it. Legislators have been forthright about their motives: They’re worried that evidence of what goes on on these farms will outrage Americans, so they want to ban it.

So far, the courts aren’t impressed. Last year, the federal court for the southern district of Iowa ruled that Iowa’s ag-gag law was unconstitutional. On Wednesday, a federal judge in Kansas agreed. “The prohibition on taking pictures at an animal facility regulates speech for First Amendment purposes,” the court concluded, dismissing arguments that prohibiting the taking of pictures did not constitute a restriction on speech.

Even worse from a constitutional standpoint, the restriction on speech is not viewpoint-neutral, the court concluded: “The law plainly targets negative views about animal facilities and therefore discriminates based on viewpoint”… Ag-gag laws are rarely actually used to prosecute activists. But they’ve nonetheless succeeded at their mission of squelching dissent. That, the federal judge in Kansas decided, is why the Animal Legal Defense Fund, which sued the state, had standing to sue…

That makes Kansas the fourth state — after Utah, Idaho, and Iowa — to see their ag-gag law struck down. But laws in Alabama, North Carolina, Montana, North Dakota, and Arkansas remain standing, with new ones passed as recently at 2017 — the product of a powerful agriculture industry furious about the animal rights movement… Animal advocates have responded with caution. “None of the major animal protection groups have done anything in Iowa in the last seven years,” Harvard’s Chris Green said… The ag-gag laws worked. And when Iowa’s law was overturned, animal activists went back to work in the state’. SOURCE…


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