A federal judge has ordered the state of Idaho to pay $249,875.08 in legal fees to the coalition of nonprofit groups that sued the state claiming its “ag-gag” law criminalizes whistleblowing and violates freedom of speech.
In August, U.S. District Court Chief Judge B. Lynn Winmill ruled Idaho’s law making it illegal to secretly film animal abuse at agricultural facilities violates the right to free speech.
“The effect of the statute will be to suppress speech by undercover investigators and whistleblowers concerning topics of great public importance: the safety of the public food supply, the safety of agricultural workers, the treatment and health of farm animals, and the impact of business activities on the environment,” U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill stated in his Aug. 3 ruling.
Lawmakers in 2014 passed the statute — dubbed the ag-gag law — after Mercy for Animals, a Los Angeles-based animal-rights group, released a video showing workers at Bettencourt Dairies in Hansen stomping, beating, dragging and abusing the cows.
A coalition of nonprofit groups sued, including the Animal Legal Defense Fund, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho and Center for Food Safety, claiming the law criminalizes whistleblowing and violates freedom of speech.