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8th Circuit Restores Challenge to Arkansas Ag-Gag Law

The 8th Circuit has revived a First Amendment challenge to Arkansas’ ag-gag law, finding that plaintiffs do have standing under Article III because they could reasonably fear private parties would enforce the law against them. The Court of Appeals rejected an argument made in the dissent that animal advocates would need to start investigating in order to have standing.

New Jersey Bill Would Criminalize Harassment of Farmers

New Jersey Assembly Bill 145 would prohibit the harassment of farmers for purposes of interfering with or impeding farming operations. The bill’s broad language would make it a crime to “harass, bother, or otherwise interfere with a farmer engaged in farming operations.” Violators would be subject to civil and criminal enforcement, including a $250-$500 penalty and imprisonment for up to thirty days. The bill also would create a private right of action by the farmer against the violator for punitive and special damages.

Advocacy Groups Prevail on Summary Judgment Motion in Second Iowa Ag-Gag Case

The Animal Legal Defense Fund, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Center for Food Safety, Bailing Out Benji, and Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement prevailed on a motion for summary judgment in their case challenging the constitutionality of Iowa’s second Ag-Gag law passed in 2019. In granting Plaintiffs’ motion and ruling that the Ag-Gag law is “viewpoint discriminatory,” the court found that the law impermissibly “seeks to single out specific individuals for punishment based on their viewpoint regarding [animal agriculture] facilities.” The judge stated the court will start determining the scope of a permanent injunction blocking the law.

U.S. Supreme Court Declines Review of Decision Overturning Kansas Ag-Gag Law

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals’ permanent injunction preventing enforcement of the Kansas Ag-Gag law aimed at punishing undercover animal cruelty investigations on factory farms. The Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the appeal by the state of Kansas is a victory for the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the Center for Food Safety, Shy 38, Inc., and Hope Sanctuary, which successfully argued that Kansas’ Ag-Gag law violated the First Amendment. The Kansas statute was the first state Ag-Gag law passed in 1990.

New Jersey Bill Would Entitle Farmers to Attorneys Fees in Certain Nuisance Suits

New Jersey Assembly Bill 955 would allow commercial farmers to recover reasonable costs and attorneys fees spent for defending unreasonable complaints under the “Right to Farm Act,” which insulates farmers from nuisance and other related lawsuits. The bill has been referred to the Assembly Agriculture Committee.

Prosecutors Drop Ag-Gag Charges Against Iowa DXE Activist Who Filmed Mass-Killing of Pigs by Ventilation Shutdown

Local prosecutors reportedly have dismissed all charges against an animal rights activist who filmed and released footage of healthy pigs being killed en masse by “ventilation shutdown” which essentially cooked the animals to death with heat and steam generators. The pig production facility was one of many that engaged in such “depopulation” practices when COVID-19 reduced slaughter capacity in 2020. The activist, Matt Johnson, was facing up to eight year in prison for charges that included burglary, electronic eavesdropping, and violating the state’s latest ag-gag law: “food operation trespass.” Johnson is affiliated with the organization Direct Action Everywhere (aka DxE) and reportedly filed an objection to the dismissal, arguing that he should be allowed “to have the ‘right to rescue’ tested in a court of law.” In December 2020, Johnson also appeared on Fox Business posing as the CEO of Smithfield Foods and claiming factory farms were “petri dishes for new diseases.”

Harvard Law Review Case Note Explores Eighth Circuit Ag-Gag Case

First Amendment – “Ag-Gag” Laws – Eighth Circuit Upholds Law Criminalizing Access to Agricultural Production Facilities Under False Pretenses, Harvard Law Review (Vol. 135, Issue 4) (February 2022)

8th Circuit Partially Restores Iowa’s First Ag-Gag Law

The 8th Circuit has restored part of Iowa’s 2012 Ag-Gag law and lifted an injunction against its enforcement, ruling that the provision prohibiting “assuming false pretenses to obtain access to an agricultural production facility is consistent with the First Amendment.” The court upheld the district court’s invalidation of the law’s “Employment Provision” that criminalized making “a false statement or representation as part of an application or agreement to be employed at an agricultural production facility.” The challenge to the Iowa Ag-Gag law was brought by the Animal Legal Defense Fund, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, Bailing Out Benji, People for The Ethical Treatment of Animals, and the Center for Food Safety.

Groups Challenge Third Iowa Ag-Gag Law

The Animal Legal Defense Fund, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Bailing out Benji, Food & Water Watch, and Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement have filed suit challenging elements of Iowa’s third Ag-Gag law passed in 2021 as a violation of the First Amendment––specifically Code § 727.8A that prohibits recording “images or data” while on “trespassed property.”