WASHINGTON (AP/WNCN) — The Supreme Court on Monday rejected North Carolina’s appeal in a dispute with animal rights groups over a law aimed at preventing undercover employees at farms and other workplaces from taking documents or recording video.

The justices left in place a legal victory for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals in its challenge to the law, which was enacted in 2015. PETA has said it had wanted to conduct an undercover investigation at testing laboratories at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill but feared prosecution under the law.

An appeals court ruled that the law could not be enforced against PETA — and likely others in similar situations — when its undercover work is being performed to conduct newsgathering activities.

The law is similar to so-called state ag-gag laws — aimed at gagging undercover activists who record footage of the animal agriculture industry — that have been struck down by several courts around the country over free speech concerns. The Supreme Court has so far refused to weigh in.

On Monday afternoon, the North Carolina Farm Bureau released the following statement:

The Supreme Court’s decision not to hear our case is disappointing and troubling. Farmers and other North Carolina businesses are now more vulnerable to having their farms, offices, and facilities infiltrated by fake employees and double agents. Hopefully, the General Assembly will step up again and protect our fundamental rights to privacy and property. Meanwhile, farmers and other business owners should consider themselves activist targets and take caution when hiring new employees.”

Jake Parker
Secretary & General Counsel, N.C. Farm Bureau