'In Idaho Old McDonald is saying, 'you can't film here''

BOISE, Idaho (AP) A coalition of animal activists, civil rights groups and media organizations is suing Idaho in federal court over a new law that makes it illegal to secretly film animal abuse at agricultural facilities.

Leaders of several advocate groups including the ACLU of Idaho, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, and a lawmaker who strongly opposed the so called "ag-gag" law while it was going through the statehouse, met at the Capitol Monday. They said they filed the lawsuit Monday morning because they believe the law is unconstitutional.

"Imagine seeing a child abused in a child care center and not being able a picture," said Monica Hopkins, the executive director of the ACLU of Idaho. "Imagine a policy maker taking a bribe in the statehouse and not being able to record it. The workers on our farms, those places where our food begins it's journeys to our tables, will not have the constitutionally protected right to such speech because if this law."

Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter signed the new law last month, after Idaho's $2.5 billion dairy industry complained that videos showing cows being abused at a southern Idaho dairy unfairly hurt business.

If anyone violates the law, they could spend up to a year in prison and face fines up to $5,000.

"In Idaho Old McDonald is saying, 'you can't film here," Carter Dillard of the Animal Legal Defense Fund said. "And now, thanks to the ag gag, there's a greater penalty for documenting animal cruelty in an Idaho farm, than there is for committing an act of animal cruelty,"

The Los Angeles-based animal rights group Mercy for Animals released the videos, which showed workers at Bettencourt Dairy beating, stomping and otherwise abusing cows in 2012.

The lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union, Animal Legal Defense Fund, CounterPunch and others asks a judge to strike down the so-called "ag gag" law. A similar lawsuit is underway in Utah over Utah's version of the law.

Speakers at the Capitol Monday also mentioned that in the last decade there have been more than 80 investigations into farms in the United States, and every single time, animal malpractice has been found and changes were made. With this law, that can no longer happen in Idaho.