Woman Prosecuted For Filming Slaughterhouse From The Road In Utah; Public Backlash Leads To Quick Reversal
from the ag-gag-gagged dept
We’ve written a few times now about so-called ag gag laws that have been pushed by lobbyists for the farm industry for years now. The bills are pretty ridiculous, often making it illegal to videotape or photograph an agricultural operation. While many people talked about how ridiculous the prosecutions would be under those bills, supporters insisted that the bills were really only for cases where activists were doing something really egregious. In Utah, which has one of these bills, during the debate over the bill, the Utah Sentencing Commission warned that it could be used against anyone who merely photographed a farm. In response, Rep. Greg Hughes said: “Who would really pursue that in terms of prosecution?” Well, now we have an answer: the local prosecutor in Draper, Utah (which, coincidentally, appears to be the district Rep. Hughes represents.
As pointed out by Mike Eber, a woman named Amy Meyer used her mobile phone camera to video tape what was happening at the Dale Smith Meatpacking Company, which she could see from the street. Dale Smith, it should be noted, also happens to be the mayor of Draper. Another coincidence, I’m sure.
When the slaughterhouse manager came outside and told her to stop, she replied that she was on the public easement and had the right to film. When police arrived, she said told them the same thing. According to the police report, the manager said she was trespassing and crossed over the barbed-wire fence, but the officer noted “there was no damage to the fence in my observation.”
Meyer was allowed to leave. She later found out she was being prosecuted under the state’s new “ag-gag” law.
This is the first prosecution in the country under one of these laws, which are designed to silence undercover investigators who expose animal welfare abuses on factory farms. The legislation is a direct response to a series of shocking investigations by groups like the Humane Society, Mercy for Animals, and Compassion Over Killing that have led to plant closures, public outrage, and criminal charges against workers.
Of course, as soon as this story started getting publicity, prosecutors suddenly decided that perhaps this wasn’t a case to take a stand on and quickly dropped the charges. Of course, the law is still on the books (as are similar laws in a number of other states) and it’s entirely possible similar cases may pop up elsewhere, when there’s less publicity and press coverage.