Judge Declares Utah Ag-Gag Law Unconstitutional
Undercover investigations have been unveiling the egregious animal cruelty that takes place behind closed doors and in the darkness of meat and dairy factory farms. These acts of cruelty include extreme confinement of gestation and battery cages, kicking, electrical prodding, leaving decaying bodies among those to be slaughtered for consumption, as well as other forms of abuse that go far beyond our worse nightmares. These atrocities not only cause extreme animal suffering but also pose a threat to the safety of factory employees, public heath, and the environment.
Rather than demand high moral and safety standards and improve the humane treatment of animals, factory farms spend millions to create laws that keep these horrific truths out of public view. Among those laws, are Ag-Gag Laws which legally prevent investigators, employees, journalists and the general public from exposing the truth. Utah is one of the states that enacted such a law (Utah Code 76-6-112) in 2012.
However, US District Judge, Robert J. Shelby showed he will not stand for it on July 7th, when he declared Utah's Ag-Gag Law unconstitutional, following a lawsuit led by the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF).
According to reports, Judge Shelby stated, "Utah undoubtedly has an interest in addressing perceived threats to the state agricultural industry, and as history shows, it has a variety of constitutionally permissible tools at its disposal to do so. Suppressing broad swaths of protected speech without justification, however, is not one of them."
We certainly could not agree more. This is a major battle won, not only for animal advocates but for journalists, those who stand up for free speech and transparency, as well as those who simply believe they deserve to know more about the food they feed their families.
This is the second time a federal court overturned an Ag-Gag Law, as regarding ALDF v. Wasden in 2015, the US District Court ruled that Idaho's Ag-Gag Law violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Idaho filed an appeal following that ruling, and it is now pending in the Ninth Circuit.
Stephen Wells, Executive Director of the ALDF stated, “These unconstitutional laws will fall like dominos. Ag-Gag Laws are flagrant attempts to hide animal cruelty from the American people, and they unfairly target activists trying to serve the public’s interest.”
Eight states currently have Ag-Gag Laws including, Montana, Missouri, North Dakota, Iowa, Kansas, North Carolina, with Idaho and Utah pending.
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