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3 Reasons Ag-Gag Laws are Unconstitutional

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It doesn’t seem fair that businesses can record us, even when we are walking on public sidewalks — just look up in any major city and you’ll see the security cameras — but we can’t record them. Why do corporate citizens get more protection, and get to be more invasive, than actual human beings?

Well, they don’t, if the Constitution has its way. The new lawsuit describes how ag-gag laws like Utah’s violate three different parts of the U.S. Constitution.

1. The Free Speech Clause, First Amendment.

“Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.”

Ag-gag criminalizes speech based on its content by prohibiting criticism of factory farming. It stops the press from conducting exposes about where our food comes from. Yet it permits factory farm owners to record and publish any kind of self-flattering material they want. Methinks that it is industrial agriculture that has the “national propaganda groups.”

2. The Supremacy Clause, Article VI.

“This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof…shall be the supreme Law of the Land…any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.”

The federal government is in charge. When it doesn’t have laws about something — like robbing people, for example — states are welcome to make their own laws. But when Congress or the Constitution does have a rule about something, the states can’t override it.

Yet that is what Utah is trying to do. By preventing the discovery and recording of violations of federal animal cruelty, worker safety, environmental and food safety laws, the state’s ag-gag statute makes them impossible to enforce. The state has gutted a whole passel of federal laws in one blow. The founding fathers made that a no-no.

3. Equal Protection Clause, Fourteenth Amendment.

“No State shall make or enforce any law which shall…deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

The plaintiffs’ lawsuit against Utah’s version of ag-gag notes that “the law is motivated by animus towards a politically unpopular group — animal protection advocates.” It is pretty hard to deny. The tycoons who make their money off the suffering of animals, exploitation of low-wage (and mostly undocumented immigrant) workers, destruction of the environment and endangerment of consumers’ health most assuredly hate animal advocates who work to expose them, and Utah’s ag-gag law most assuredly came straight from those tycoons. Animal advocates, as well as immigrant advocates, environmentalists and food safety advocates are entitled to as much protection from Utah’s legislature as the factory farmers get.

Many state governments that have or want ag-gag laws will watch this lawsuit closely. It is now up to the courts to remind states that corporations cannot buy themselves a free pass to break any laws they want and toss their critics into prison.

Related Stories:

One More Ag-Gag Bill Bites the Dust

California and Indiana Kill Ag-Gag Bills, But the Fight’s Not Over

Woman Faced Jail Time for Dastardly Crime of Filming A Slaughterhouse

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102 comments

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5:56PM PDT on Apr 17, 2014

Another step closer to a total police state. Will it come to a point where you can be sued for reporting a crime? If animals are being mistreated or killed in an illegal manner then a law has been broke, simple !

10:40AM PST on Nov 29, 2013

Something serious must be done to owners of slaughter houses that are inhumanely treating any kind of animal.period. And done to laws protecting these owner/manager/workers/ that protect the offender and NOT the innocent. Why are hands tied on these issues?????????? There is absolutely NO EXCUSE, America...just give up meats.

4:06AM PST on Nov 25, 2013

Any life, no matter whose this life is - human's or animal's - is more important than any private property right!!!!!! SImply because it's a LIFE!!!!!! ANIMALS, they are just like us, we are the creatures of the same God, animals are given only ONE LIFE, just like people, so why don't we respect this life? Who made us in charge to choose who to kill, who to torture, who to mutilate, who to make suffer physical as well as emotional pain???? They are speechless, they can't protect themselves and that's why they are even more vulnerable, and if we think that humans are the strongest and most powerful in this world, then shouldn't we PROTECT the weakest???
Nobody has a right to do the horrific things that take place in the slaughterhouses all over the world, and to talk about these horrors is not a crime, but a duty of any responsible citizen!!!!
It's states who commit a crime making these laws!!!!
And it seems like they forgot the fundamental principle - everybody is equal under the law. Shame shame shame...

3:31AM PDT on Aug 14, 2013

thanks for sharing

7:26PM PDT on Jul 29, 2013

Kevin, you may be right , the founders probably would not have supported such laws unless they violated another sacred law “Property rights” so they provided means for the people to petition and vote a representative to re-write the laws. They stressed a nation of laws so much that the supreme court ruled: Obama’s mentor, Bills Ayers, admitting to engaging in bombings of New York City Police Headquarters in 1970, of the Capitol building in 1971, and the Pentagon in 1972. had to be released, because the law said he had to have his Miranda rights read to him. Now he teaches socialism as a “distinguished professor”. Amy Meyer should have been arrested.

6:00PM PDT on Jul 29, 2013

David there is nothing in the constitution like the ag-gag laws. The founders were interested in protecting private property from being violated by the state, but they never would have supported such overreaching laws and would never allow such laws to interfere with the First Amendment freedom of speech and freedom of press.

These laws amount to prior restraint and would have stopped great writers like Upton Sinclair from writing "The Jungle." If someone trespasses on your property you can sue them, not use prior restraint.

5:53PM PDT on Jul 29, 2013

Kevin, Free speech was sacred, truth and Justice was sacred, property rights were sacred, “more important” is not in the constitution. None overruled the other in order to justify the ends by illegal means. As I said, If one doesn’t like a law, or lack of a law, then the constitution has provisions to correct.

5:46PM PDT on Jul 29, 2013

Kevin W.
" Violating the rights of property owners to get sensational video may be effective but I think it's illegal and innapropriate. The ends do not justify the means."

If you have nothing to hide, wouldn't it be a good thing overall that someone shot undercover footage of your operation? If everything is fine, they cannot get any 'sensational videos", plus it may reflect well on other small farmers too.

5:34PM PDT on Jul 29, 2013

David F. said "The founders of this country believed that private property rights was sacred, the basis for all to work and develop a nation"

No David, they believed that freedom of speech was sacred, that truth and justice were sacred, property rights were certainly important, but not more important than free speech, truth and justice.

Crimes against property should be dealt with by property laws, like the laws of trespass, not these horrible broadly written laws that hide the truth and stifle freedom of speech. Our founders WOULD NOT have approved of such overreaching laws.

Read more: http://www.care2.com/causes/3-reasons-ag-gag-laws-are-unconstitutional.html#ixzz2aU5e2Io7

5:12PM PDT on Jul 29, 2013

Lisa, Sivlia, Nicole, Dianne, and most others on Care2 all have pets that consume animals in order to survive and please their owners. Veggies or not, they pay the almighty dollar for someone else to kill and process their animals. That fine and great, I just don’t understand the hypocrisy to advocate the violation of their constitutional rights of the very people they pay for their services.

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