Idaho Ordered to Pay Nearly $250,000 in Lawyers' Fees in Ag-Gag Battle 

click to enlarge GEORGE PRENTICE
  • George Prentice

In April 2011, we visited a Jerome livestock auction
as part of an investigation into high levels of drugs found in cattle linked to Idaho dairies. Auction officials, not pleased with our presence, called us "terrorists." If a 2014 measure signed into law by Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter had been in effect at the time, we would have faced fines of up to $5,000 and up to a year in jail.

That so-called "Ag Gag" law was enough to bring, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho and the Center for Food Safety together to challenge the law's constitutionality. In Aug. 2015,  U.S. District Court Chief Judge B. Lynn Winmill ruled the law was unconstitutional, saying it "violated the Equal Protection Clause because it was motivated in substantial part by animus towards animal welfare groups, and because it impinges on free speech, a fundamental right."

Now, Winmill has granted a motion requiring the State of Idaho to pay nearly $250,000 in attorneys fees to the plaintiffs.

"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," said PETA general counsel Jeffrey Kerr Thursday in a reaction to Winmill's order."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."
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