BOISE – A district court judge ordered Idaho to pay $249,875.08 in attorneys’ fees to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and other animal welfare groups that successfully challenged the state’s law prohibiting undercover filming at agricultural operations.
“The American public has a right to know when the meat industry is breaking the law, and Idaho’s ‘ag-gag’ law was a blatant violation of free speech,” Jeffrey Kerr, general counsel to PETA, said in a statement. “This ruling is a warning to other states that PETA will challenge ‘ag-gag’ laws, we will win, and it will be costly for the state.”
Idaho lawmakers passed the so-called “ag-gag” law in March 2014. The bill, which was promoted by the state’s dairy industry, imposes fines and jail time to those caught taking hidden-camera videos at agricultural operations. But in August 2015, US District Court Chief Judge B. Lynn Winmill ruled the effect of the law would be to suppress speech by whistleblowers and undercover investigators.
Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden appealed the ruling in December 2015.