This week, on behalf of Farm Forward and a coalition of other plaintiffs, Public Justice filed a motion for summary judgment asking the Court to enjoin North Carolina from enforcing the “Anti-Sunshine Law” and declare it unconstitutional. This “ag-gag” law criminalizes whistleblowing and undercover investigations. The Anti-Sunshine Law is meant to punish anyone—employees, journalists, and even community members—who investigate the practices of a property owner or employer to bring illegal or dangerous behavior to light. The North Carolina ag-gag law is especially egregious because of the all-encompassing language it uses to criminalize any kind of whistleblowing about federal, state or private industry.
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 reads:
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.
Research indicates that most consumers value and prioritize animal welfare. We believe that consumers have the right to know where their food comes from and how farmed animals were raised. These ag-gag laws were designed to prevent that.
The hog industry dominates North Carolina, where more than nine million hogs live on factory farms. Community and animal welfare advocates have historically used undercover investigations to document evidence of the damage that CAFOs unleash on North Carolina. Since the Anti-Sunshine Law was passed, we know of just one set of investigators who have successfully exposed factory farming: our friends in the Waterkeeper Alliance, who took to the air after Hurricane Florence hit Eastern North Carolina to film CAFOs’ breached lagoons spilling millions of gallons of toxic hog waste into the surrounding ecosystems and communities. But investigators without access to personal aircraft are out of luck…and even airborne investigators can’t document what goes on inside facilities. So in passing the Anti-Sunshine law and other ag-gag legislation like it, Big Ag and its lobbyists have successfully promoted their own interests over the welfare of animals, the environment, and the communities surrounding North Carolina’s CAFOs—many of which are comprised by the state’s most marginalized residents. But Farm Forward and our allies are fighting back through this lawsuit and motion, and we’re working hard to keep the public informed about these issues.
Farm Forward is committed to our role as a watchdog of the American food system and now more than ever—as climate change worsens, communities of color bear the brunt of our industrialized model of food production, and small and midsize farms crumble—it’s essential that we continue our fight to build a more just, healthy and equitable system for humans, animals, and the planet.
We can’t do it without you.