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Appeals court revives challenge to Arkansas ‘ag-gag’ lawsuit

August 9, 2021 GMT

ST. LOUIS (AP) — A federal appeals court revived a legal challenge Monday to an Arkansas law that farm organizations have used to shield themselves from undercover investigations by animal rights groups.

A three-judge panel of the St. Louis-based 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court’s decision to dismiss the lawsuit. The Animal Legal Defense Fund and other animal rights organizations filed the suit in 2019 against Republican state Rep. DeAnn Vaught and her husband, who own a pig farm, and Peco Foods, an Alabama-based poultry farm with Arkansas facilities.

Vaught also sponsored the 2017 law. The suit argues that the law, which bars undercover investigations at private businesses like large farms, violates the First Amendment by banning a form of speech. So-called “ag-gag” laws have been approved by legislatures in states with animal agriculture industries.

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A federal judge last year said the groups hadn’t shown they have suffered an actual injury because of the law. The Animal Legal Defense Fund and another plaintiff in the suit, Animal Equality, said they have plans to conduct undercover investigations of Peco’s facilities and the Vaughts’ pig farm but have refrained from doing so due to the law.