UTAH, July 12, 2-17 - Utah’s ag-gag law violates the First Amendment, a federal judge has determined, killing a 2012 statute designed to prevent animal welfare activists from going undercover to film operations of animal production facilities.
“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,” U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby ruled last week. “Suppressing broad swaths of protected speech without justification, however, is not one of them.”
The Animal Legal Defense Fund, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and activist Amy Meyer challenged the law in 2013 after the state sought to prosecute Meyer for filming “what appeared to be a bulldozer moving a sick cow at a slaughterhouse in Draper City, Utah,” according to the judge’s opinion. Meyer was on public property, however, and the state dropped the charges. The ruling is the second to find a state ag-gag law unconstitutional; in 2015, a federal judge found Idaho’s law violated the First and 14th amendments. The state can appeal the decision to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. Idaho appealed its loss to the 9th Circuit, which heard arguments in May.