The US state of North Carolina has agreed to pay $885,000 to animal rights and food safety groups for their incurred legal bills during the eight years of litigation arguing that it was unconstitutional to ban employees from recording undercover videos at work. As NC lost in court when trying to silence those who expose poor business practices or wrongdoing in animal exploitation facilities by enacting gagging laws, like other states, it must now compensate those who defended their right to investigate. However, the settlement in NC is four or five times larger than others, reflecting a long legal battle that has now finally come to an end.

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. 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 2023 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 the Supreme Court rejected hearing such an appeal. The economic settlement came as a consequence of that decision. 

In a statement, the victorious organisations such as PETA, the Government Accountability Project, and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said, “Defend [the agriculture industry’s] interests to the detriment of the health, safety, and civil liberties of your citizens, and you’ll be choosing to do so at the taxpayers’ significant expense.” 

Jordi Casamitjana
“Originally from Catalonia, but resident in the UK for several decades, Jordi is a vegan zoologist and author, who has been involved in different aspects of animal protection for many years. In addition to scientific research, he has worked mostly as an undercover investigator, animal welfare consultant, and animal protection campaigner. He has been an ethical vegan since 2002, and in 2020 he secured the legal protection of all ethical vegans in Great Britain from discrimination in a landmark employment tribunal case that was discussed all over the world. He is also the author of the book, ‘Ethical Vegan: a personal and political journey to change the world’.