(ANIMAL CRUELTY/ANIMAL NEWS) The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) and PETA have made huge strides in their effort to disband the unlawful “ag-gag” or “anti-whistleblower” laws in Utah. The controversial “ag-gag” laws give the state the right to conceal incriminating evidence of animal cruelty on their factory farms.

It is now illegal for whistleblowers, or undercover workers, to tell the public where their food is coming from and to expose factory farms for their poor working conditions. Animal rights activists say the “ag-gag” law is unconstitutional because it is taking away our first amendment, freedom of speech. Read on to learn more about how PETA and ALDF are working together to put an end to “ag-gag” laws. — Global Animal

Under the "ag gag" law the public will no longer be aware of what is happening inside of factory farms, and will no longer be aware of where their food is coming from. Photo Credit: worldtruth.tv
Under the “ag gag” law the public will no longer be aware of what is happening inside of factory farms, and will no longer be aware of where their food is coming from. Photo Credit: worldtruth.tv

SALT LAKE CITY – Utah filed a motion to dismiss the landmark “ag gag” lawsuit filed by national nonprofits Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).

The first-of-its-kind lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court of Utah, challenges the state’s ag gag law for violating rights protected by the U.S. Constitution by criminalizing the collection of evidence of animal abuse at factory farms.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of ALDF, PETA, the political journal CounterPunch, journalists Will Potter and Jesse Fruhwirth, undercover investigator Daniel Hauff and professor James McWilliams, all of whom rely upon undercover investigations in their professional work to expose egregious animal cruelty and food safety violations. Amy Meyer, the first person in the nation prosecuted under an ag gag law, is also a plaintiff.

Since the August, 2013 filing of the lawsuit, ALDF’s petition to repeal Utah’s ag gag law has received more than 35,000 signatures on Causes.com. Although Utah claims the law is constitutional, the lawsuit has received widespread support from constitutional law experts.

The Association of American Prosecuting Attorneys has said, “Any prosecution under Utah’s agricultural operation interference law [will] be vulnerable to successful defense challenges under the First Amendment.”

“Ag gag bills like Utah’s are completely antithetical to the First Amendment,” said Timothy Zick, Professor of Law at the College of William and Mary and a nationally recognized constitutional law expert.

“Utah’s ag-gag law is unconstitutional. It limits free speech by criminalizing undercover reporting on factory farms–targeting and chilling political speech about animal well-being and food safety,” says Ani Satz, Professor of Law at Emory University.

“This is nothing but an attempt to silence citizens who expose animal cruelty,” said Stephen Wells, executive director of the Animal Legal Defense Fund.“Rather than trampling upon our rights, our lawmakers should be helping us enforce the law against the chronic abuse of animals on factory farms.”

“PETA’s investigations have documented farm workers kicking pigs in the head, spray painting them in the eyes, stomping and throwing chickens and turkeys like footballs, and smashing piglets’ heads against concrete floors,” said Jeffrey S. Kerr, General Counsel to PETA.

“Utah should pass a law requiring publicly accessible webcams in slaughterhouses and on farms to catch the abusers, not protect them. The state’s motion, like the ag gag law itself, is designed to shield this industry from scrutiny.” 

Attorneys from the University of Denver’s Sturm College of Law and the Utah Legal Clinic and other First Amendment experts, including Colorado attorney Ed Ramey, are providing pro bono legal assistance on the case.  The plaintiffs will respond to the State’s motion in December at which time the federal court will likely schedule a hearing.

For more information, visit aldf.org and PETA.org.

Join the Cause! Protect the Right to Freedom of Speech: Stop Ag Gag!

More Stories About Ag-Gag Laws:

The Great Ag-Gag Debate (UPDATE)

Activists Unite Against Utah Ag-Gag

Legislators Cover Up The Truth About Factory Farming

Tennessee Governor Trumps Ag Gag