WASHINGTON — The US Supreme Court chose not to hear North Carolina’s argument regarding a state law that wants to prevent undercover investigations of agriculture operations.

The justices denied the case, NC Farm Bureau Federation Inc. v. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals Inc. (“PETA”). 

Earlier in 2023, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that part of the law was unconstitutional since it violated “newsgathering considerations” of workers under the First Amendment right to free speech. The lower court decided not to look at other parts of the law that did not involve newsgathering.

The state law, The Property Protection Act, was passed in 2015 as a protection for farmers after animal rights activists began publishing undercover videos supporting accusations of animal cruelty. The North Carolina General Assembly passed the law despite a veto from then-North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory.

Under this law, individuals who make unlicensed recordings or take photographs on non-public business property can face civil penalties of up to $5,000 and jail time. The law applies to activists, journalists and anyone else who poses as an employee but engages in unauthorized recording of business activities.

Several animal rights groups have sued the state over the law since 2016.

Other states have recently had similar laws struck down. In January 2019, Iowa’s law banning undercover investigations at agriculture facilities was ruled against on First Amendment grounds.