A federal appeals court ruling will resurrect a lawsuit by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and other animal rights groups challenging North Carolina’s ‘ag-gag” law. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on June 5 reversed a North Carolina federal judge’s decision dismissing the lawsuit.
A three-judge appeals panel said PETA and other groups have alleged a reasonable fear that the law sought to punish undercover exposes uncovering illegal and unethical conduct. PETA was joined in the lawsuit by The Center for Food Safety, Animal Legal Defense Fund, Farm Sanctuary, Food & Water Watch, and the Government Accountability Project.
The court said plaintiffs in the past conducted undercover investigations for the purpose of uncovering unethical or illegal treatment of animals, and “plausibly alleged that they wish to continue such investigations in furtherance of their missions.”
North Carolina was among about a half-dozen states passing laws targeting surreptitious recordings in agricultural settings. North Carolina’s law extends to other types of businesses. Federal courts have struck down so-called “ag-gag” laws in Utah and Idaho in the past year as violations of the U.S. Constitution’s free speech guarantee.