Animal Equality Joins Lawsuit Challenging Arkansas’ Ag-Gag Law
June 27, 2019
Animal Equality, joined by a trio of public interest groups, is challenging Arkansas’ Ag-Gag law in an effort to remove the veil of secrecy over the state’s factory farms.
THE DETAILS: Animal Equality, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the Center for Biological Diversity and Food Chain Workers Alliance have filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas challenging the constitutionality of the state’s Ag-Gag law, a law that prohibits undercover investigations that expose abuses at factory farms and other businesses throughout the state. The plaintiffs are represented by the Public Justice Food Project and in-house attorneys for the organizations bringing the lawsuit.
UNCONSTITUTIONAL: Arkansas’ Ag-Gag law is far-reaching. Not only does the law allow agricultural businesses to sue whistleblowers who expose the cruel conditions animals endure in factory farms, the law also bans undercover investigations of virtually all private entities, including nursing homes and daycare centers. Whistleblowers could be liable for tens of thousands of dollars just for exposing the truth. Through this lawsuit, the public interest group plaintiffs seek a declaratory judgment that Arkansas’ Ag-Gag law is an unconstitutional restriction on free speech. They also seek to enjoin the defendants from using the law against the groups were they to investigate the defendants’ factory farms.
FIRST OF ITS KIND LAWSUIT: The challenge is the first Ag-Gag case in which private entities are the defendants. One of the defendants is DeAnn Vaught, the lawmaker who sponsored the law. Arkansas legislators explained they hoped to prevent judicial review of the law by exclusively providing companies the right to enforce the law’s civil penalties.
DOWN GOES ANOTHER?: This is the eighth lawsuit challenging state Ag-Gag laws. Earlier lawsuits have resulted in courts striking down similar laws in Idaho, Utah, Wyoming and Iowa. Litigation remains ongoing in North Carolina, Kansas and Iowa, where state lawmakers recently passed a second Ag-Gag law after the first was struck down.
WHAT WE’RE SAYING: “We believe undercover investigations are one of the most powerful and compelling means of shining light on the suffering of animals inside factory farms and slaughterhouses,” said Cailen LaBarge, General Counsel for Animal Equality. “But this isn’t only about animal protection – Arkansas’ Ag-Gag law imposes critical and unlawful free speech constraints that all Americans should be concerned about.”
WHY THIS IS SO IMPORTANT: The ability to investigate, document and publicize corporate agriculture’s abuses is imperative to the well-being of workers and animals across the nation, and to public health and safety. Factory farms want to keep their cruel practices hidden from the public. But the public deserves the truth about the billions of animals suffering on industrial farms, the working conditions that produce lifelong crippling injuries, and the environmental pollution that is endangering species and degrading air and water quality.
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP: Our undercover investigations have revealed severe animal abuse on factory farms — animals subjected to horrific violence, psychological and mental anguish, and painful, torturous deaths. Without our ability to expose the truth on factory farms, animals would be suffering from abuse and cruelty in silence. We need your help to make a difference and to continue to bring the truth to light. Please consider supporting our mission to protect farmed animals everywhere.