Kansas Ag Gag Law Declared Unconstitutional


U.S. District Judge Kathryn Vratil ruled that the Kansas, Farm Animal and Field Crop and Research Facilities Protection Act banning secret filming at abattoirs, processing plants and livestock facilities was unconstitutional as it criminalizes free speech.

Since enactment in 1990 the Kansas state law has been the subject of litigation with opponents including the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the Center for Food Safety and other animal rights organizations.

The majority opinion written by Judge Vratil noted, “the regulation of speech is not viewpoint-neutral because it only applies to speech that is made with intent to damage the enterprise conducted at an animal facility.”  The Judge took into account strict scrutiny in her interpretation of the law that allowed content-based speech restriction only if it is necessary to serve a compelling interest narrowly tailored to achieve that end. The assertion by the State that the law was intended to protect privacy and property rights of the owners of animal facilities was not a compelling interest.  The Judge considered that undercover operations exposing unsafe and inhumane conditions are a form of free speech.

Ag Gag laws in Utah and Idaho have been struck down as unconstitutional citing First Amendment rights. The law passed in North Carolina and others are being challenged and will probably be overturned.