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Student Project: Factory Farming: Ag-Gag Legislation

Ag-Gag Laws

Ag-gag legislation is designed to discourage, silence, and punish whistle-blowing on factory farms.  These laws target employees and undercover investigators who seek to uncover and expose cruelty, abuse, and food safety violations.  Ag-gag laws initially criminalized videotaping inside of a factory farm, but have since been expanded to make it illegal to provide misinformation on a job application.  This new litigation makes it almost impossible for an undercover investigator to get a job at a factory farm without violating the law.  Undercover investigations have uncovered countless cases of animal abuse and food safety violations.  Without access to factory farms, the public remains blind to what goes on behind the windowless walls of these facilities.  Likewise, without undercover investigations exposing these violations, animal abuse goes unpunished and food safety issues go unresolved.

Select State Ag-Gag Laws

  • Kansas enacted the first modern ag-gag law which made it a crime to take photographs or videos on factory farms without consent and with the intent to damage the the enterprise.
  • Montana's ag-gag law makes it illegal to take photographs or videos on factory farms without consent from the owner and with the intent to defame the enterprise.
  • North Dakota has ag-gag legislation which makes it a crime to enter a factory farm without consent and attempt to take photographs or videos.  No intent is required to prosecute under this law.

First Amendment Implications

On January 1, 2016, North Carolina enacted an ag-gag law which had implications that reach far beyond the walls of factory farms.  This new legislation seeks to silence whistle-blowers in all occupations and makes it a crime to expose abuses or violations in any workplace.  The all-encompassing language of the statute includes not only factory farms but also nursing homes and day care facilities.  This makes it extremely difficult for employees to report illegal activity without being charged with a crime themselves.  The silence this law imposes on workers in North Carolina is a clear violation of free speech granted under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and is currently under appeal.