Utah Ag-Gag Law Declared Unconstitutional
Another First Amendment Victory for Animal Groups Fighting Anti-Whistleblower Statutes
Salt Lake City, Utah –Today the U.S. District Court of Utah declared Utah’s Ag-Gag statute unconstitutional. This is the second time a state Ag-Gag statute has been struck down as unconstitutional, both rulings the result of lawsuits led by the Animal Legal Defense Fund. This victory follows a landmark decision from August 2015, when the U.S. District Court of Idaho ruled that Idaho’s Ag-Gag law violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments.
Today’s ruling resolves the first lawsuit filed in the nation to challenge Ag-Gag laws, which criminalize undercover investigations by animal activists and journalists at factory farms and slaughterhouses.
“These unconstitutional laws will fall like dominoes,” says Animal Legal Defense Fund’s executive director Stephen Wells. “Ag-Gag laws are flagrant attempts to hide animal cruelty from the American people, and they unfairly target activists trying to serve the public’s interest.”
The Animal Legal Defense Fund and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) filed their groundbreaking lawsuit against the state of Utah in July 2013 after Amy Meyer, a Utah activist, videotaped a live cow, too sick to walk, being pushed by a front-loader at Dale T. Smith Meatpacking Company in Draper, Utah. Amy became the first person in the nation to be prosecuted under an Ag-Gag law, although the charges were dropped after a public outcry.
After filing this challenge to the Utah law, the Animal Legal Defense Fund also challenged Idaho’s Ag-Gag law. The landmark Idaho case was swiftly and decisively resolved in favor of the plaintiffs, made up of a broad-based public interest coalition of national nonprofits—led by the Animal Legal Defense Fund, with the federal court holding that Ag-Gag laws “suppress speech by undercover investigators and whistleblowers concerning topics of great public importance: the safety of the public food supply, the safety of agricultural workers, the treatment and health of farm animals, and the impact of business activities on the environment.”
Undercover investigations have exposed egregious animal cruelty and shed light on common agricultural practices that cause significant animal suffering and pose substantial threats to public health and the environment.
“The court’s ruling recognizes what PETA has said all along, which is that Americans have a right to know that workers in the meat industry kick pigs in the face, stomp on chickens and turkeys, and smash piglets’ heads against concrete floors,” says PETA Foundation Director of Animal Law Jared Goodman. “PETA will continue to support the constitutional right of whistleblowers to serve the public and animals by exposing the horrific cruelty that occurs behind the scenes in this industry.”
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