A new law in North Carolina that prohibits the use of recordings in businesses such as daycares, nursing homes or agricultural and farm venues has ignited a lawsuit against N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper and UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol Folt.
The N.C. General Assembly passed the bill last year over a veto from Gov. Pat McCrory, which allows property owners to recover damages from an individual entering private premises and taking recordings. The law went into effect Jan. 1.
Erica Geppi, director of the N.C. chapter of the Humane Society, said the law would help factory farms hide potential animal cruelty from consumers.
“This really puts the American public in danger by limiting transparency," she said.
Several animal rights and environmentalist groups, including PETA and the Animal Legal Defense Fund, are involved in the lawsuit.
The groups claim the law violates First Amendment rights to free speech, discriminates against whistleblowers and animal rights activists and is a violation of the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause.
“We conduct undercover investigations at farms and slaughterhouses across the country," said Matthew Liebman, senior attorney for the ALDF. "When laws like this pass it prevents us from continuing, which is important in shining a light on an industry shrouded by secrecy."
While Cooper is being sued on constitutional grounds, Folt is named in the lawsuit for blocking the investigation of UNC research facilities via the law.
Liebman said there is evidence that animal labs at UNC performed practices perceived to be cruel in a PETA investigation between 2001 and 2003, which found disregard of animal care protocol such as cutting the heads off of baby rats while still conscious. Some animal rights groups want to continue these investigations.