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First “Ag-Gag” Prosecution: This Utah Woman Filmed a Slaughterhouse from the Public Street

April 29, 2013
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HSUS, Green is the New Red

HSUS, Green is the New Red

Concerned about Ag-Gag laws?  Click HERE to sign petition

Update, 4/30,13 : Amy Meyer’s Ag-Gag Charges Have Been Dropped!

Source, 4/29/13: Green is the New Red
By Will Potter

Amy Meyer wanted to see the slaughterhouse for herself. She had heard that anyone passing by could view the animals, so she drove to Dale Smith Meatpacking Company in Draper City, Utah, and from the side of the road she could see through the barbed-wire fence. Piles of horns littered the property. Cows struggled with workers who tried to lead them into a building. And one scene in particular made her stop.

“A live cow who appeared to be sick or injured being carried away from the building in a tractor,” Meyer told me, “as though she were nothing more than rubble.”

As she witnessed this, Meyer did what most of us would in the age of smart phones and YouTube: she recorded.

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.

Even the most sweeping ag-gag bills, such as the American Legislative Exchange Council model legislation, don’t explicitly target filming from a roadside. But Nebraska, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Vermont are all considering bills similar to the Utah law right now.

Pennsylvania’s bill criminalizes anyone who “records an image of, or sound from, the agricultural operation” or who “uploads, downloads, transfers or otherwise sends” the footage using the Internet.

North Carolina’s bill doesn’t specifically mention factory farms or slaughterhouses: it is called the “Commerce Protection Act,” and it includes investigations of any industry. It was introduced on the same day a fifth employee of Butterball pleaded guilty to animal cruelty after an undercover investigation showed workers beating turkeys.

Tennessee’s bill has already passed and is awaiting signature from the governor. In response to calls for a veto from the Humane Society and Carrie Underwood, one state representative compared undercover investigations to rape and sex-trafficking.

California’s ag-gag bill recently failed, after a massive public backlash. One newspaper editorial said “the cattlemen have committed the worst PR gaffe since New Coke.” The bill was a response to an undercover investigation by the Humane Society that showed “downer” cows, too sick to move, being pushed by tractors (much like what Amy Meyer recorded in Utah). It led to the largest meat recall in U.S. history.

The public backlash against these bills, including recent editorials by the New York Times and Washington Post, has relied  on hypothetical examples of how they could be used. The AFL-CIO and Teamsters say they could put workers at risk. The ASPCA says they could shut down lawful investigations by animal protection groups. The National Press Photographers Association says they could wrap up journalists.

The first ag-gag prosecution should be a warning that these aren’t hypothetical concerns. These bills have one purpose: keep consumers in the dark. Rather than respond to video footage of animal cruelty with across-the-board reforms, the industry is trying to turn off the cameras.

It’s telling that the owner of the slaughterhouse Amy Meyer filmed happens to be Darrell H. Smith, the town mayor. (Mayor Smith, the meatpacking company, and the local prosecutor did not return phone calls for comment). If that’s shocking to you, it shouldn’t be. In Iowa, for example, the nation’s first ag-gag law was sponsored by Rep. Annette Sweeney, who is the former director of the Iowa Angus Association.

In Utah, the bill’s sponsor, Rep. John Mathis, called undercover investigators “animal rights terrorists” and said video recordings of animal abuse are “propaganda.” In his opening remarks at a legislative hearing on the ag-gag bill, Mathis said: “It’s fun to see my good ag friends in this committee… all my good friends are here.” Ag-gag supporters couldn’t be any more transparent in their financial motivations for censorship.

It was prescient that, as the Utah bill was being considered, the Utah Sentencing Commission warned that it could be used against anyone who merely takes a photograph of a farm or slaughterhouse. At the time, Rep. Greg Hughes of Draper replied: “Who would really pursue that in terms of prosecution?” Now, the first ag-gag prosecution is for precisely that, in his own district.

Most people won’t ever find themselves in the position of Amy Meyer, of course. Few of us actively seek out information about how our food is produced. (Do you know the location of a factory farm, if you wanted to?) The animal products just arrive at the supermarket, without investigation or thought.

With ag-gag bills, the industry is trying to keep it that way. These bills are not just about animal activists from national organizations going undercover. They are about people like Amy Meyer, who have seen how animals are being treated, and who want you to see what they have seen.

Most importantly, ag-gag bills are about you — the millions of Americans who might see this footage, be sickened by it, and demand a change.

Will Potter is the author of Green Is the New Red: An Insider’s Account of a Social Movement Under Siege (City Lights, 2011).

burying your head,
does not stop
what goes on
outside.
truth is truth,
and from that
you cannot hide.
laws that stop
those from pursuing
what is real,
will only come back
to bite the ones who
make this devil’s deal.

Karen Lyons Kalmenson

 

36 Comments leave one →
  1. karenlyonskalmenson permalink
    April 29, 2013 3:12 pm

    burying your head,
    does not stop
    what goes on
    outside.
    truth is truth,
    and from that
    you cannot hide.
    laws that stop
    those from pursuing
    what is real,
    will only come back
    to bite the ones who
    make this devil’s deal.

    Like

  2. catwhispurrer permalink
    April 29, 2013 3:43 pm

    I just want to forewarn people who act like “sheeple” with a herd mentality, that they too are destined to become victimized in the same way livestock is today. Corrupt “authorities” are pushing “ag-gag” legislation to exploit the most vulnerable, while keeping everyone else in the dark about what they are secretly doing with the public food supply. If we fail to stand up for the animals, when protection laws are being broken, we fail to stop this overt cruelty & neglect. The animals have no voice and no rights without oversight, and we, as consumers (voters, taxpayers) have the right to transparency inside these “factory farms” to prevent or stop the horrific suffering of animals destined for slaughter. Certainly, we should not be prosecuted for taking photos or videos of wrongdoing, as observant members of the public!

    If this legislation is allowed to pass, our rights too will be gradually eroded, until one day we will have NO voice anymore, either. Then who will speak up for us, when our human rightsy are already being compromised? By enabling the most corrupt operators to wield their power like a knife against animal rights, then our right to monitor them, you can be sure that soon enough, nothing and nobody will stop them. Let’s ensure that animal rights will always trump such egregious human wrongs from this day forward. If not for the sake of the animals, fight for that for your own. “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” ~ Martin Luther King Jr.

    Like

  3. April 29, 2013 4:31 pm

    I, for one, do not give a sh*t about these laws! I do not care about the low-life’s who own and work at these establishments. (A nightmare for the non-human species!!) What is transpiring on factory farms must be documented and become public knowledge. We should demand transparency!!

    Like

    • April 29, 2013 6:41 pm

      We should demand veganism, no animal should be killed. Thank you for your comments.

      Like

    • Marian Harvey permalink
      April 30, 2013 7:42 am

      From rural Indiana….we must unite, a social movement is growing…we just defeated this year’s Ag Gags…..but it took the animalpeople, environmental, worker rights….in every arena…We need to introduce Right to Farm Reverently bills…keep up the good work everyone…..

      Like

  4. April 29, 2013 7:02 pm

    Agree with all comments,,this is already violating our (humans) civil rights,we suffer for and with these animals, how dare these F**kers not only take our civil rights away on something that is a committed into the food supply and not have it transparent to the public.But to kill these animals like they do is an abomination and a monstrous act, No one could ever make up a worse slasher movie, (which I have always hated)..again, I will say to all listening that we have to take the human rights approach to this issue with a large class action lawsuit with every vegan/vegetarian that will join..best way to get media attention to expose how insane, unhealthy and immoral killing and eating animals is in the year 2013.

    Like

  5. Ellen Gaston permalink
    April 29, 2013 10:52 pm

    These ag-gag laws piss me off beyond belief. Their legality should be determined by the Supreme Court. These giant assholes are ignoring Free Speech and Freedom of the Press to protect their big-ag interests. ALEC and the politicians they own can kiss my ass and go to hell. Terrorize THIS you sleazy troglodytes.

    Like

  6. April 30, 2013 7:50 am

    I agree with all the comments to this post.

    Today I learned that Nestle is trying to take over all of our water supplies. Their stance is that water is NOT a Human Right. Imagine?

    It’s only a matter of time before they start lining us up outside the gas chamber. Remember: everything Hitler did was legal. People shouldn’t forget that. Nor should we forget every chapter of our history when a group considered less than was exploited.

    What can I do to make a difference (besides blogging, spreading the word and signing petitions?) I live in Mass.

    Like

    • April 30, 2013 8:09 am

      Hi, hon. Keep doing everything you are doing, go to protests in person, and if you witness animal abuse on any animal report it to the police (or to PETA: http://www.peta.org/about/contact-peta/report-cruelty.aspx). And regardless of ag-gag laws, animal abuse is illegal. Animals killed for food are NOT covered under the Animal Welfare Act, but there are laws against treating them harshly or cruelly (despite them being killed, which is rather a paradox). Oh, and if you are not already, go vegan and encourage others to do so as well. The only way to stop animal abuse for good is to go vegan. Thanks for all you do.

      Like

      • April 30, 2013 2:37 pm

        Yay!!!

        Like

      • Marian Harvey permalink
        May 1, 2013 8:59 am

        Here in rural Indiana…the chemicals/nitro/fertilizer been applied to the fields that have been desecrated to “farm” corn/soy (for ethanol, livestock’s unnatural/unhealthy diets…have the same effects as “chemical warfare”….the symptoms of exposure are the same. Notice “farmers” cannot get out and walk in the fields. I had to take Benedryl last night my throat was so swollen from working outside…..From FDR, I have memorized it….”The first truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to the point that it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism – ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power…Among us today a concentration of private power without equal in history is growing.” Big Ag. Clothing retailers. Gas. Oil. Banks. Every arena. that is why we, the people, must rise about our individual agendas and empower ourselves….Blessings for the earth and animals!

        Like

  7. April 30, 2013 8:23 am

    SICK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! This woman should be given a medal. This country is FASCIST.

    Like

  8. Jeanne Bradbury permalink
    April 30, 2013 8:27 am

    Looks like one of the most DIRECT PATHS to losing one of our most basic freedoms, the right to identify and fight against widespread, agregious animal abuse (and, by the way, major threat to the safety of our food supply) is systematially being silenced by the Ag-Gag laws being passed around the country. ONCE BIG-AGRA WINS THIS ONE, IT’S OVER FOR ANIMALS AND ALL OF US!

    Like

    • April 30, 2013 2:21 pm

      Thank you so much, Isabella. This is good news. I updated the alert.

      Like

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