I'm excited to announce that this week I joined fourteen fellow Food Law & Policy faculty around the country in filing an amicus curiae brief in support of the plaintiffs in Animal Legal Defense Fund v. Wasden, a challenge by animal-welfare and free-speech advocates to Idaho's unconstitutional ag-gag law, a case that is now before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Our brief was written by Minnesota appellate attorney Mahesha Subbaraman.
Ag-gag laws, which are on the books in eight states, including Idaho, are laws that effectively ban journalists, whistleblowers, and activists from conducting or sharing the results of undercover investigations at agricultural and livestock processing facilities. In our brief, we argue that Idaho's ag-gag law violates the First Amendment because it unnecessarily burdens the rights of consumers to access information in the marketplace of ideas about the way livestock are treated--or, specifically, sometimes mistreated--during the time they are raised and slaughtered.
"By silencing journalists, whistleblowers, and activists, the ultimate effect of Idaho’s ag-gag law is to keep consumers in the dark about what goes on behind closed doors at agricultural and livestock processing facilities," said Subbaraman, the author of the brief. "Such censorship violates the First Amendment rights of consumers as much as it violates the First Amendment rights of journalists, whistleblowers, and activists."
In preparing the brief, my role was to recruit potential signers, organize our work, update the potential signers, serve as the point of contact between the brief author and brief signers, and consider and incorporate many of the signers' proposed edits.
In an email to my fellow signers announcing that the brief had been filed, I noted that the brief will be an important tool for fighting Idaho's ag-gag law. "More broadly," I noted, "I think our work on the brief shows the collaborative impact that we and others in our field can have on a variety of important Food Law & Policy issues in the future."