Animal Groups in Court to Oppose Utah’s Motion to Dismiss Ag Gag LawsuitPosted on August 6, 2014
Groups Challenge Constitutionality of State Law Targeting Factory Farm Whistle-Blowers
For immediate release:
Megan Backus, ALDF
David Pearle, PETA
SALT LAKE CITY — Tomorrow, attorneys for the national nonprofits Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) will appear in court to fight Utah’s motion to dismiss the groups’ lawsuit, which challenges the constitutionality of Utah’s controversial ag gag law.
When: Thursday, August 7, 2:30pm
Where: U.S. District Court for the District of Utah.
Courtroom 7.300 (Judge Robert J. Shelby), 351 S. West Temple, Salt Lake City, UT 84101
The lawsuit is the first case ever filed to challenge the constitutionality of ag gag laws, which criminalize undercover investigations that expose the cruel treatment of animals and unsafe practices at factory farms and slaughterhouses. The plaintiffs argue that the ag gag law violates the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution and is preempted by federal law. The groups filed the federal lawsuit to overturn the statute, which criminalizes whistle-blowing investigations at factory farms and specifically targets animal advocates who expose illegal practices.
Since the lawsuit was filed, the lawsuit has received widespread support from constitutional law experts and the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys. The Center for Food Safety and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (joined by sixteen other press organizations including The Salt Lake Tribune, the National Press Photographers Association, and NPR) have filed “friend of the court” briefs in support of the groups’ historic lawsuit. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are ALDF, PETA, the political journal CounterPunch, journalist Will Potter, Professor James McWilliams, undercover investigations consultant Daniel Hauff, blogger Jesse Fruhwirth, and Amy Meyer, the only person in the country to be prosecuted for violating an ag gag law after she filmed a live cow being dragged by a tractor at a slaughterhouse—footage she took from a public road in Draper, Utah. The charges were eventually dropped.
“PETA has repeatedly worked with whistleblowers and law enforcement officials to root out illegal cruelty to animals on factory farms and in slaughterhouses across the country,” says PETA Foundation General Counsel Jeffrey Kerr. “We need stronger laws on the books to punish people who abuse animals, not ag gag laws that keep the abuse out of the public’s eye and punish the people who expose it.”
“The First Amendment is essential to empowering advocates and whistle-blowers to expose the cruel treatment of animals at agricultural production facilities,” says Stephen Wells, executive director of the Animal Legal Defense Fund. “Utah’s ag gag law violates the constitution by criminalizing this speech in order to shield animal abusers from public criticism.”
The Plaintiffs’ response to the state’s motion to dismiss, the original complaint, and amicus briefs are available upon request.