In a triumph for animal welfare, the U.S. Court for the District of Kansas has ruled that the state’s “ag-gag” law violates the First Amendment and is therefore unconstitutional.

Challenged in 2018 by a coalition led by the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), the law bans undercover investigators from taking photographs or filming animal facilities, such as slaughterhouses and factory farms, ultimately preventing the documentation of animal abuse.

On January 22, the U.S. Court for the District of Kansas rejected the state’s motion to dismiss the case and accepted the majority of the coalition’s motion for summary judgment, thus prohibiting Kansas from implementing the Ag Gag law.

ALDF maintains that the almost 30-year-old legislation prevents undercover activists from investigating inhumane conditions at animal facilities, stifling free speech. This enables unscrupulous companies to hide systemic animal abuse and avoid public scrutiny.

“For 30 years, Kansas lawmakers have suppressed whistleblowers from investigating cruel conditions on factory farms with this unconstitutional law,” explains ALDF Executive Director Stephen Wells. “Today’s decision is a victory for the millions of animals raised for meat on factory farms.”

ALDF explained the importance of undercover investigations in both regulatory practice and public informational awareness.

“It is critical that investigations are not suppressed,” the organization said in a statement. “The public relies on undercover investigations to expose illegal and cruel practices on factory farms and slaughterhouses. No Federal laws govern the condition in which farmed animals are raised, and laws addressing slaughter and transport are laxly enforced.”

“Undercover investigations are therefore the primary avenue through which the public receives information about animal agriculture operations,” ALDF continued. “Investigations also reveal health and worker safety violations. Factory farms and slaughterhouses are major polluters, so undercover investigations are important for learning about violations of environmental laws as well.”

This victory in Kansas follows other federal courts in Idaho, Iowa and Utah ruling that those states’ ag-gag laws also violate the U.S. Constitution.