Animal Advocates Push Back against State Attempt to Shut Down Historic “Ag Gag” Lawsuit

Posted on October 15, 2013

Utah’s Controversial Law Stirs Public Criticism for Violating Freedom of Speech

For immediate release:

Contact:
Lisa Franzetta, Animal Legal Defense Fund
Megan Backus, Animal Legal Defense Fund

cow-article-image2SALT LAKE CITY — On Friday, the state of Utah filed a motion to dismiss the landmark “ag gag” lawsuit filed by national nonprofits Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). The first-of-its-kind lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court of Utah, challenges the state’s ag gag law for violating rights protected by the U.S. Constitution by criminalizing the collection of evidence of animal abuse at factory farms. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of ALDF, PETA, the political journal CounterPunch, journalists Will Potter and Jesse Fruhwirth, undercover investigator Daniel Hauff and professor James McWilliams, all of whom rely upon undercover investigations in their professional work to expose egregious animal cruelty and food safety violations. Amy Meyer, the first person in the nation prosecuted under an ag gag law, is also a plaintiff.

Since the August, 2013 filing of the lawsuit, ALDF’s petition to repeal Utah’s ag gag law has received more than 35,000 signatures on Causes.com. Although Utah claims the law is constitutional, the lawsuit has received widespread support from constitutional law experts.

  • The Association of American Prosecuting Attorneys has said, “any prosecution under Utah’s agricultural operation interference law [will] be vulnerable to successful defense challenges under the First Amendment.”
  • “Ag gag bills like Utah’s are completely antithetical to the First Amendment,” said Timothy Zick, Professor of Law at the College of William and Mary and a nationally recognized constitutional law expert.
  • “Utah’s ag-gag law is unconstitutional. It limits free speech by criminalizing undercover reporting on factory farms–targeting and chilling political speech about animal well-being and food safety,” says Ani Satz, Professor of Law at Emory University.

“This is nothing but an attempt to silence citizens who expose animal cruelty,” said Stephen Wells, executive director of the Animal Legal Defense Fund. “Rather than trampling upon our rights, our lawmakers should be helping us enforce the law against the chronic abuse of animals on factory farms.”

“PETA’s investigations have documented farm workers kicking pigs in the head, spray painting them in the eyes, stomping and throwing chickens and turkeys like footballs, and smashing piglets’ heads against concrete floors,” said Jeffrey S. Kerr, General Counsel to PETA. “Utah should pass a law requiring publicly accessible webcams in slaughterhouses and on farms to catch the abusers, not protect them. The state’s motion, like the ag gag law itself, is designed to shield this industry from scrutiny.”

Attorneys from the University of Denver’s Sturm College of Law and the Utah Legal Clinic and other First Amendment experts, including Colorado attorney Ed Ramey, are providing pro bono legal assistance on the case.  The plaintiffs will respond to the State’s motion in December at which time the federal court will likely schedule a hearing.

Copies of the complaint are available by request.

ALDF was founded in 1979 with the unique mission of protecting the lives and advancing the interests of animals through the legal system. For more information, please visit aldf.org.

PETA was founded in 1980 and focuses its attention on the four areas in which the largest numbers of animals suffer the most intensely for the longest periods of time: on factory farms, in the clothing trade, in laboratories, and in the entertainment industry. For more information, please visit PETA.org.


6 thoughts on “Animal Advocates Push Back against State Attempt to Shut Down Historic “Ag Gag” Lawsuit

  1. Linda says:

    How could you not make this an important matter. There are so many people that work there are learning not to care about any living creature that is what you are saying to them. You are saying and given a message that life is not important. really $ matter to everyone but do it with respect.

  2. Lindsay says:

    “This is nothing but an attempt to silence citizens who expose animal cruelty,” said Stephen Wells, executive director of the Animal Legal Defense Fund. “Rather than trampling upon our rights, our lawmakers should be helping us enforce the law against the chronic abuse of animals on factory farms.”

    “PETA’s investigations have documented farm workers kicking pigs in the head, spray painting them in the eyes, stomping and throwing chickens and turkeys like footballs, and smashing piglets’ heads against concrete floors,” said Jeffrey S. Kerr, General Counsel to PETA. “Utah should pass a law requiring publicly accessible webcams in slaughterhouses and on farms to catch the abusers, not protect them. The state’s motion, like the ag gag law itself, is designed to shield this industry from scrutiny.”

  3. Margaret Tifer says:

    As a family, we realize that ultimately these animals will wind up on our dinner plates & we will consume them without a second thought. We’ve all been lead to believe these animals have been humanely euthanized, processed, inspected, passed by random government-hired, trained inspectors, & that all were acceptable and “safe for human consumption” upon leaving the factories. Through released media/video, we now know the realities of torture & cruelty used for absolutely no reason. What could possibly be the reason behind this? Cheap, uneducated, ill-equipped labor, lower production costs, higher production due to higher demand, new exporting commitments? I’m sure politics will come up with hundreds of unrelated, off-subject reasons. But our family cannot accept excuses for outright cruelty to animals, of any kind! Not for any reason! Please don’t allow this behavior to continue. The men/women who purposely, slowly & painfully kill these animals are nothing but Animal Abusers. I’m not saying every person employed in this position is guilty of these acts. Those that are, need not be in this type of job. Humans need food & water for survival but the animal need not suffer its death while humane means are readily available. STOP it now! Go right where it starts. Close the business, don’t just fine them. Make things right, if you have anything left of a heart or soul. If not, I’m glad you can get a good nights sleep living without the right decision for We the People.

  4. Janet Coleman says:

    STOP THIS CRUELTY NOW!! THIS BEHAVIOR DOES NOT BELONG IN AMERICA!

  5. I believe that this is a real problem-that lawmakers will try to sweep it under the rug-all the corporate farms have been getting away with this for years-probably even the family farms-time for this to STOP!!!

  6. Katie Desmond says:

    Always treat animals humanely, there are no exceptions. If an animal is injured, treat it properly and make sure there are no other problems with it before anything else is done with them.

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