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Public Justice and Allies Secure Win in Arkansas Ag-Gag Law

Public Justice and Allies Secure Win in Arkansas Ag-Gag Law

On Monday, August 9, 2021, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit in St. Louis, released its opinion on its ruling reversing a lower court’s February 2020 dismissal of a lawsuit challenging the Arkansas Ag-Gag law as unconstitutional, holding that animal advocates can prospectively challenge ag-gag laws that enable factory farms and private businesses the right to sue whistleblowers investigating corporate abuses.

This case against Peco Foods Inc., and Jonathan and DeAnn Vaught of Prayer Creek Farm, is led by the Food Project and brought on behalf of the Animal Legal Defense Fund, Animal Equality, Center for Biological Diversity, and Food Chain Workers Alliance, challenging the constitutionality of Arkansas’s Ag-Gag law, which prohibits undercover investigations that expose abuses at factory farms and other businesses across the state.

Enacted in 2017, Arkansas’s statute is far-reaching, and as the name suggests, it seeks to “gag” would-be whistleblowers and undercover activists by punishing them for investigating what goes on in animal agriculture, essentially squelching free speech and allowing businesses to sue whistleblowers thousands of dollars just for exposing the truth—a truth that factory farms often want to keep hidden from the public. These laws were originally designed to prevent the public from learning about animal cruelty, as well as gain key information about industrial agriculture’s contribution to environmental pollution. The Arkansas Ag-Gag law also bans undercover investigations of almost all private entities, including nursing homes and daycare centers.

The lawsuit was filed with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas, seeking declaratory judgement that the Ag-Gag law is an unconstitutional restriction on free speech. In March 2020, the Food Project filed an appeal challenging the Ag-Gag law, following the lower court’s February dismissal of the lawsuit. This ruling to reverse the lower court’s decision affirms the public’s ability to investigate and publicize corporate businesses and factory farms’ practices and hold them accountable when the well-being of animals and workers are at stake.

Ag-Gag laws unconstitutionally silence whistleblowers and prohibit undercover investigations that expose some of the agricultural industry’s most egregious and harmful practices like animal cruelty, pollutions, and worker abuse. Learn more about our fight against the Arkansas Ag-Gag law—and Ag-Gag laws across several states on the Food Project’s website.