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February 23, 2023

4 minutes read

Major Victory: NC Ag-gag Law Struck Down

Updated February 23, 2023: A federal court ruled that undercover investigations and whistleblowing activities are protected under the First Amendment—effectively rejecting North Carolina’s “Anti-Sunshine” ag-gag law. This ruling marks a turning point in the nationwide movement to overturn unconstitutional ag-gag laws. Read more here.

Updated June 16, 2020: MAJOR VICTORY! On Friday, in a stunning decision, a federal judge struck down North Carolina’s “Ag-gag” law, ruling that several of its provisions are unconstitutional and violate the First Amendment. See the full decision here.

Donate now to help us strike down another unconstitutional ag-gag law!

Updated September 3, 2019: Today Public Justice on behalf of Farm Forward and a coalition of other plaintiffs filed a motion for summary judgement asking the Court to enjoin North Carolina from enforcing the “Anti-Sunshine Law” and declare it unconstitutional. This “Ag-gag” law is meant to punishes anyone—employees, journalists, and even individual community members—who investigate the practices of a property owner or employer to bring illegal or dangerous behavior to light. This Ag-gag law is especially egregious because of the all encompassing nature of the language used preventing any kind of whistleblowing about federal, state or private industry.

Updated June 5, 2018: The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled on June 5, 2018 that our federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the North Carolina anti-sunshine law can move forward, reversing the decision of the federal district court.

Updated July 20, 2016: Earlier this month in an attempt to fight an ag-gag lawsuit, North Carolina’s Attorney General and the Chancellor of the University of North Carolina opposed the filing of an Amicus Brief by a coalition of plaintiffs including Farm Forward. They are attempting to prevent the court from considering the expert opinion of two scholars in constitutional law and federal procedure.

Around the nation law professors seeking to provide an academic perspective on a legal question before the court routinely make such contributions. In the Idaho ag-gag case, the state recently accepted an Amicus Brief submitted with expert opinion. This news highlights the dangerous and unparalleled nature of North Carolina’s opposition.

Farm Forward reached out to Professor Jack Preis, one of the constitutional law experts to provide an opinion in the North Carolina Amicus Brief, to ask him about the opposition. He stated, “UNC seems to believe that I am an apologist for the animal rights movement. But the reality is that I have no dog in this fight. My job is to tell the truth about matters of federal jurisdiction, and whether I write an amicus brief depends chiefly on what the truth is, not on who it will help.”

Our fight in North Carolina is just beginning.

For immediate release: February 25, 2016

Greensboro, NC  — Today Farm Forward joined a federal lawsuit to strike down North Carolina’s ag-gag law, which went into effect January 1 despite Governor McCrory’s veto. The law punishes whistleblowers for exposing animal abuse, human rights violations, and anything else that employers wish to hide from the public.

After defeating a similar law in Idaho, which violated both the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution, Farm Forward’s General Counsel Michael McFadden says the group is ready to take on another challenge.

“This is the kind of law you’d expect in North Korea, not North Carolina,” says McFadden. “Ag-gag protects abusers and punishes citizens for exercising their right to free speech. These laws have no place in America.”

Farm Forward has long been a watchdog of the American food system, from its new project BuyingPoultry, which lets consumers find higher-welfare poultry products and plant-based alternatives, to its in-depth assistance on the book and upcoming documentary film Eating Animals, which is being produced by Academy Award Winner Natalie Portman. Farm Forward also hosts a petition at that has been signed by tens of thousands of people nationwide and remains a cornerstone of the movement to overturn ag-gag laws.

Farm Forward is part of a coalition of plaintiffs in this lawsuit that includes the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Animal Legal Defense Fund, Center for Food Safety, Farm Sanctuary, Food & Water Watch, Government Accountability Project, and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. The plaintiffs’ joint statement is as follows:

North Carolina’s Anti-Sunshine Law seriously hinders North Carolinians’ ability to know the truth about misconduct, mistreatment and corruption happening in virtually every industry, including nursing homes, factory farms, financial institutions, daycare centers and more. It’s an extreme law forced on citizens over a governor’s veto by lawmakers who bowed to pressure from corporate lobbyists. This law blatantly violates citizens’ rights to free speech, a free press, and to petition their government, and violates the Equal Protection Clause. It places the safety of our families, our food supply, and animals at risk, and it attempts to bully and threaten those working for transparency, free speech and the public good. Our lawsuit is being brought for the sake of the health and safety of all citizens of North Carolina. We are confident the law will be found unconstitutional and that a victory in North Carolina will deter other state legislatures from repeating North Carolina’s mistake.

Donate now and help us strike down another unconstitutional ag-gag law!

Full Press Release PDF available here

Last Updated

February 23, 2023