The Idaho Attorney General’s office said it’s reviewing a federal appeals court decision striking down the state’s ag-gag law, which criminalized hidden-camera recordings of farm operations. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals last week upheld most of an earlier District Court ruling that invalidated Idaho’s statute because it violated free speech rights. Specifically, the appeals court rejected Idaho’s argument that prohibiting an audio or visual recording of agricultural operations is a form of regulating an activity, rather than an expression of speech. “This argument is akin to saying that even though a book is protected by the First Amendment, the process of writing the book is not,” the 9th Circuit said. Likewise, the court ruled that Idaho can’t prohibit people from gaining access to a farm through misrepresentation, particularly since the state already criminalizes trespass. The misrepresentation provision is “problematic” because Idaho lawmakers made clear it’s intended to “quash investigative reporting” about dairy farms, the ruling said. “However, the 9th Circuit said two provisions of the law — using misrepresentation to obtain records and employment with the goal of causing harm — should be allowed to stand. Idaho lawmakers passed the law in 2014 after footage of cattle abuse at an Idaho dairy was publicized by an animal rights group, resulting in public outrage against the farm.
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