Animal rights groups, state ask judge to rule on ‘Ag Gag’ law

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A file photo of protesters rallying against Utah's 'Ag-Gag' law in May of 2013.

SALT LAKE CITY — Animal welfare groups are asking a federal judge to rule in their favor in a long-running lawsuit over Utah’s controversial “Ag Gag” law.

In a filing Tuesday in federal court, the Animal Legal Defense Fund and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals asked the judge for summary judgment and a declaration that the law violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

The law, passed by the Utah State Legislature in 2012, prohibits photographing or videotaping agricultural operations. It targeted animal rights groups who might engage in covert filming of livestock, which would then be made public to bolster their claims of abuses. The ALDF and PETA made reference to the arrest of Amy Meyer, who filmed a cow being moved into a slaughterhouse from a public sidewalk in 2013. (The case against her was ultimately dismissed.)

“Not surprisingly, the animal agriculture industry is eager to prevent investigative whistleblowing. To this end, animal agriculture industry groups have pushed for state legislatures to enact laws to criminalize undercover investigations in their industry. Under these laws, which include Utah Code Ann. § 76-6-112, animal rights and food safety advocates, as well as investigative journalists, are cast as criminals,” lawyers for the animal rights groups wrote.

In Tuesday’s filing, the Animal Legal Defense Fund noted that Sen. David Hinkins, R-Orangeville, referred to “the Ag Gag law as a means of targeting ‘the vegetarian people’ who ‘are trying to kill the animal industry.’ Senator Hinkins elaborated that in his view the law was necessary because the vegetarian groups are ‘terrorists.'”

In its own filing, the Utah Attorney General’s Office said the law was crafted for the protection of food safety and private property. It did not violate the First Amendment rights of animal rights groups, the state argued.

Read the filing by the Utah Attorney General’s Office here:

Read the filing by ALDF and PETA here:

 

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