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14 January 2018 - Idaho’s ‘Ag-Gag’ Law Voided

The topic for this week is one I have discussed more than once on Samuelson Sez and it just won’t go away. The topic?… What rights do farmers have when ‘animal rights groups’ decide they have the right to walk uninvited on to a farm or ranch or walk into a dairy barn or livestock building and begin shooting video because they suspect animals are being abused on the property? What about trespassing laws and the right of property owners to protect their property against unwanted guests?

The number of such happenings increased to the point a decade ago that agricultural states began passing laws to make it illegal to go onto a farm and shoot video under a false pretense. Animal rights groups and other critics of the law described it as an ‘ag-law’ and said if farmers had nothing to hide, why would they object.

Back in 2014 the Governor of Idaho, Butch Otter, signed the ‘ag-gag’ law, despite strong protests from the American Humane Society. But last month a federal appeals court declared the Idaho law unconstitutional on free speech grounds. Circuit Judge Margaret McKeown of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Seattle made some other interesting comments in her written statement.

She said the ban on shooting video was a “classic example of a content-based restriction that cannot survive strict scrutiny”. But here’s the one that really got me…‘the ban on making misrepresentations to enter facilities was void because it could criminalize innocent behavior.” I interpret that as the court saying it is legal to lie.

Justin Marceau, a lawyer representing the Animal Legal Defense Fund said it was a mixed bag for animal rights advocates. He said “It is a landmark decision because it upholds the right to record on farms and other private property.”

So here we go again…..taking away from farmers the right to decide who comes onto their private property, to decide who is trespassing or not trespassing, and who lies to come onto that property with malicious intent.

Eleven states with similar laws will be watching the aftermath of this decision very carefully. I still say it is a violation of your property rights.

My thoughts on Samuelson Sez.