BOISE • A federal judge shot down the Idaho Dairymen’s Association’s motion to join the state in defending a law that makes it illegal to film farm operations without permission.
A gaggle of animal rights, environmental and civil liberties groups and journalists are suing to overturn the so-called “ag-gag law” which passed in February and would make it a misdemeanor to secretly record abuse on a farm.
The IDA had wanted to join Gov. C.L. “Butch’’ Otter and Attorney General Lawrence Wasden in defending the law, saying dairies would be greatly affected by the suit’s outcome.
The push to pass the law came after an animal rights group released video showing cows being abused at a dairy south of Hansen. The law was strongly backed by the dairy industry, a $2.5 billion player in Idaho’s economy and a significant lobbying force in Boise.
On Monday, U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill denied the IDA’s motion to join the suit.
“The state and the IDA’s goals in this proceeding are identical, and the State can adequately represent those interests,” Winmill wrote.
Matthew Liebman, who is representing the Animal Legal Defense Fund in challenging the law, said including the IDA was unnecessary and would have delayed the case.
“We think the court made the right decision in keeping the Idaho Dairymen’s Association on the sidelines of the case,” he said.
The judge said he would grant the IDA amicus curiae status, which would let it file a brief supporting the state. But it doesn’t give them the same standing as being a party would, said IDA Director Bob Naerebout.
“Obviously, we’re disappointed in Judge Winmill’s finding,” Naerebout said.
The law’s supporters say it protects the private-property rights of agricultural operators and shields them from having their businesses attacked unfairly by activists. Its opponents say it violates free-speech rights and would stifle attempts to expose animal abuse and safety violations and other illegalities.