On 16th October 2023, the US Supreme Court rejected hearing a North Carolina’s appeal in a dispute with animal rights organisations over a gag law aimed at preventing undercover employees at farms and other workplaces from taking documents or recording video.
The animal rights group PETA had successfully challenged the Property Protection Act (also known as the “Anti-Sunshine Law”), a state law enacted in 2015, as the organisation wanted to conduct an undercover investigation at testing laboratories at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill but feared prosecution under the Act. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in February that the law could not be enforced against PETA and similar investigative organisations wanting to do undercover work to conduct newsgathering activities. Vivisectors appealed, but now the Supreme Court rejected hearing such an appeal.
David Muraskin, a lawyer with FarmSTAND representing PETA and other groups, said to The Daily Record, “People have a right to know about illegal and unethical conduct. Exposing unsafe or inhumane practices and working conditions is essential to holding powerful bad actors accountable for the harm they cause.”
Jared Goodman, PETA Foundation General Counsel for Animal Law, said in a statement, “Ag-gag laws are a desperate, last-ditch attempt by animal exploiters to smother free speech and hide appalling cruelty to animals from a public that is increasingly disinclined to tolerate it. PETA is celebrating today’s decision and will continue to use every legal means at its disposal, including whistleblower reports and undercover investigations, to expose the horrors that occur behind closed doors in laboratories, on factory farms, in slaughterhouses, in puppy mills, and at other abusive facilities.”
So far, the Supreme Court has refused to weigh in In the cases of similar laws initially created to apply to agricultural facilities (and because of this they are called ag-gag laws). Unfortunately, there are still six US states that have active Ag-Gag laws. These are Alabama, Iowa, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, and Texas. Two of these are the states which created the first Ag-Gag laws decades ago (North Dakota and Alabama).