Yesterday the Plant Based Foods Association submitted an amicus (friend of the court) brief to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals requesting it to affirm the U.S District Court’s ruling that Idaho’s “Ag-Gag” statute is unconstitutional. This is the first time that a U.S appellate court will consider the constitutionality of an “Ag-Gag” law. In addition, the Plant Based Foods Association submitted a brief making the novel legal argument that the law places plant-based foods at an unfair economic disadvantage, given the negative effects this law has on consumer access to information and competition in the market place.
“Ag-Gag” is a term used to describe a number of laws that have emerged in numerous states since the 1990s. These laws impair the ability of journalists, whistle-blowers and other concerned parties to investigate, document and report concerns in animal production facilities. These concerns often include food safety and health risks, animal welfare problems, worker’s rights violations and other matters of great public interest.
Part of our mission at the Plant Based Food Association is to ensure a fair and competitive marketplace for businesses selling plant-based foods intended to replace animal products. PBFA advocates for the elimination of policies and practices that place plant-based meats and other products at an economic disadvantage. The Plant Based Foods Association argues that Idaho’s statute barring “interference with agricultural production” does precisely this: it prevents consumers from receiving and evaluating truthful information about how animal products are made. This denies consumers the information they need to make informed purchasing decisions about both animal products and their plant-based alternatives, impeding market efficiency and competition.
Truthful information about food production is critically important to consumers and competition. By severely limiting the available information about food production, the Idaho statute harms consumers and competition.
The Idaho state legislature enacted this particular law in reaction to an undercover investigation at an Idaho dairy farm. The law, which was drafted by the Idaho Dairyman’s Association, essentially criminalized investigative journalism. The law would also make it a crime for employees to document animal suffering or abuse they observed while at work.
The coalition seeking to affirm the district court decision to strike down this law includes: Animal Legal Defense Fund, American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho, Center for Food Safety, numerous journalists and other civil rights and environmental organizations. After the briefing is completed, an oral argument date will be set, and the Ninth Circuit’s decision could be expected sometime next year.
Many thanks to James Pizzirusso and the Hausfeld law firm for their pro bono services in drafting and filing this brief on our behalf. And thanks to Rebecca Jenkins for drafting this blog post.