PETA, others sue Utah over 'Ag-gag' law

Jul 23, 2013

A group of animal welfare activists are challenging Utah’s so-called “Ag-gag” laws.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), PETA, and others filed a lawsuit against Utah’s governor and attorney general offices to repeal Utah’s agricultural operation interference law- known as the 'Ag-gag' laws.

Utah code title 76 chapter 6 section 112, states any person who “records an image of, or sound from, an agricultural operation” while standing on private property without the owner’s consent is guilty of “agricultural operation interference,” a class A misdemeanor.

Stephen Wells, an ALDF spokesperson, said in a statement released Monday, “The American public relies on undercover journalists and animal activists to expose inhumane and unsafe food production practices in industrial facilities.”

It’s that alleged first amendment violation that caused Amy Meyer to join in the litigation.
Meyer was arrested on a charge of interfering with an agricultural operation in February after recording a bulldozer pushing a cow around the grounds of a Draper, Utah, slaughterhouse.

Though the charges were later dropped because Meyer's video showed she was standing on public property for at least some of the recording, she said the so-called “Ag-gag” law violates her freedom of speech.

"Even acting as legally like a law-abiding citizen, you can still be charged under the Ag-gag law," Meyer said. "That’s what happened to me, and even though the charges were later dismissed, it still creates a chilling effect on free speech."

Utah state senator David Hinkins, who said  he hasn’t seen Meyer's video, said he helped sponsor House Bill 187 to keep private property safe from people who may want to poison or otherwise harm farm animals.

"Are they in charge of meat inspections," Hinkins said. "OK if they are, then let’s hire them. Why don’t they go do it the right way? I mean, if you go to a slaughterhouse, you have a state inspector, there’s FDA inspectors, they’re there every time they kill an animal. They oversee the whole operation."

Several U.S. states already have similar laws in place.

Tavin Stucki is a senior in Utah State University's journalism program, and works as a news reporting intern at UPR. He lives for sports, and is the current editor in chief at The Utah Statesman.