Posted October 21, 2013
Attorneys for the state of Utah filed a motion to dismiss, arguing the plaintiffs did not have standing to bring the lawsuit which challenges the state’s “ag-gag” law, according to a Food Safety News article available here.
Plaintiff, Amy Meyer, an animal rights activist, was the first person charged under Utah’s “Agricultural Operation Interference” law, Utah Code Ann. § 7-76-112, which was adopted in 2012. Meyer was arrested after taking pictures of a slaughterhouse in Draper, Utah from public property.
Utah assistant attorneys general argue Meyer lacks standing because the charges filed against her were dismissed without prejudice. The assistant attorneys general also argued that a challenge of the validity of a criminal statute that is not being prosecuted requires that there be someone who is under a “real and immediate threat of future prosecution” and that none of the plaintiffs meet the “credible threat” test.
The lawsuit was filed on July 22, 2013, with plaintiffs also including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), journalists and college professors challenging the Utah law on First and Fourteenth Amendment grounds. The complaint is available here.
The law makes leaving a recording device to record sound or images on the property of private livestock or poultry operations a class A misdemeanor. It also prohibits trespassing on those properties to record sound or images or seeking employment with the intent of recording a class B misdemeanor.
PETA attorney Jeffery S. Kerr said, “Utah should pass a law requiring publicly accessible webcams in slaughterhouses and on farms to catch abusers, not protect them…The state’s motion, like the ag gag law itself, is designed to shield this industry from scrutiny,” according to a Deseret News article available here.
Daniel Widdison, assistant attorney general, wrote, “In essence, the law punishes trespass and fraud, and protects the right of private property owners to control who has access to their property and what they do while on that property.” The motion to dismiss is available here.
For more information on this case, a recent post from this blog is available here. For information on animal welfare, please visit the National Agricultural Law Center’s website here.