Protest Points to Problems with “Ag-Gag” Law

CowProtesters met Saturday to draw attention to a law passed last year that now makes it illegal to film or photograph agricultural activities without permission.

The law, which puts a gag on filming agricultural activities and is often referred to as the “ag-gag” law, was proposed last year by Representative John Mathis (R – Vernal) with HB 187 – Agricultural Operation Interference, and was signed into law. Those found guilty of filming or taking photographs are charged with a class B misdemeanor – on par with assault, DUI, and resisting arrest in the sate.

The protests were prompted by the arrest of Amy Meyer who, on February 8, illegally filmed cows entering the Smith and Son’s Slaughterhouse in Draper. ABC 4 reports that, according to Meyer, at least six officers filed a report against Meyer before being charged with stepping on private property and filming the activities of the company. Meyer, for her part, denies the trespassing charge, and a judge eventually dismissed her case due to a lack of evidence.

Opponents of the law say Utahns have the right to know how their meat and food is processed as a matter of public health, and criminalizing whistle-blowers and the media infringes on First Amendment rights, and that this oversight is necessary because self regulation in the agricultural industry has led to more lax standards. Supporters say that groups who actively violate this law tend to do more harm than good in protecting animal welfare and are deceitful in their practices – often intentionally deceiving an employer to gain access to production facilities.

Roughly 50 people attended the rally, with some holding signs saying  “Ag-Gag bad for consumers, animals, and our health,” “Ag-gag stifles freedom of speech and freedom of press,” and one individual, dressed in a pig costume, carried a sign saying “End the cruelty.”

Currently, Utah is one of only six states with an ag-gag law.

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