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Landmark Lawsuit Challenges 'Ag-Gag' Law

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Farm Issues page and our Factory Farming & Food Safety page.

A group of animal rights groups and advocates filed a landmark lawsuit on Monday challenging Utah's "ag-gag" law as an unconstitutional attack on free speech and freedom of the press that criminalizes whistleblowers while shielding corporate agriculture.

The state's 2012 law criminalizes a person that records sounds or images from a livestock operation or applies for a job at a livestock operation with the intent to make such recordings; in other words, it prohibits documenting animal abuse.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), which joins PETA, CounterPunch, animal rights advocate Amy Meyer, journalist Will Potter, Professor James McWilliams and animal investigation consultant Daniel Hauff in the lawsuit, states that

corporate agriculture sees [the recording of animal abuse] as a threat to profits. Rather than change to less abusive practices it has instead chosen to keep the public uninformed by aggressively pushing for legislation that makes such investigations illegal- a classic case of shooting the messenger. The laws are designed to thwart the collection of evidence of wrongdoing, thereby "gagging" reporters and whistleblowers from exposing the facts. It's an incredible abuse of power and public trust.

Meyer was the first person in the nation charged under ag-gag laws after she filmed a slaughterhouse from a public road. Charges were soon dropped, but the law stands in Utah and other states as well.  The Salt Lake Tribune reports that Stewart Gollan of the Utah Legal Clinic, part of the legal team representing the group,

said that other states, largely through the efforts of the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council, have adopted similar laws that limit scrutiny of industries that are the subject of public debate; in addition to agriculture, that has included mining operations, he said.          


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