VICTORY! On Friday, July 7, the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah struck down the state’s “ag-gag” statute, finding that it violated the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

This is the second time that a state “ag-gag” statute has been declared unconstitutional as the result of a lawsuit filed by PETA and the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF).

The groundbreaking lawsuit was filed in 2013 against the state of Utah after a person was prosecuted for recording a live cow, too sick to walk, being pushed by a front-end loader at Dale T. Smith & Sons Meat Packing Company in Draper, Utah.

The activist became the first person in the U.S. to be prosecuted under an “ag-gag” law (because of alleged “agricultural operation interference”), although the charges were dropped after there was a public outcry.

Thanks to this lawsuit, people in Utah won’t have to worry about getting in trouble for exposing cruelty on factory farms and in slaughterhouses, and animal abusers can no longer hide behind this unconstitutional “law” any longer.

What do “ag-gag” laws do?

There’s more work to be done! Across the country, lawmakers are considering “ag-gag” bills, which, if passed, could subject whistleblowers and eyewitnesses to criminal prosecution for their efforts to expose animal abuse on factory farms and in slaughterhouses.

factory farm, pig, joanne mcarthur

How do “ag-gag” laws threaten animals?

Basically, they’re designed to protect animal abusers and keep the public in the dark. They make it a crime to film on factory farms, or they require that evidence of cruelty to animals be turned over almost immediately. These bills could stop vital eyewitness work that exposes the routine abuse of animals in the factory-farming industry.

Why is it important to allow eyewitnesses and whistleblowers to document abuse?

We believe that people have a right to know what happens to animals behind closed doors. “Ag-gag” bills require those who photograph or record abuse to come forward and reveal themselves within 24 or 48 hours of the first incident. This time frame prevents anyone from documenting abuse over a long period of time and therefore exposing it as systemic, routine, and inherent in the factory-farming industry—not just an isolated incident that occurred on a single day. Authorities often require evidence of these systemic issues and may not pursue single instances of abuse.

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Many people simply don’t want to believe how badly animals are being abused in our society and the world. The old saying that “A picture is worth a thousand words” is particularly true in the case of cruelty to animals. These money-hungry industries are quick to call our photographs and footage an “exaggeration” in an attempt to protect their cruel business practices. With visual evidence of abuse that has happened over time, we can easily counter their claims and expose the truth.

But can’t the government handle this?

There are no government inspections of factory farms for cruelty-statute violations. When workers witness and report abuse, those claims are often ignored. That’s why documenting abuse is so important—eyewitnesses provide authorities with crucial evidence and empower them to hold abusers accountable to the law. Eyewitness investigations have helped officials convict abusers across the country.

What can I do?

Don’t let the greedy factory-farming industry get away with abusing animals. Speak out, spread the word about “ag-gag” laws, and go vegan. Refusing to eat meat, eggs, or dairy foods is the best way for you to save more than 100 animals every year from a life of misery on a cramped, filthy factory farm and a painful death at a slaughterhouse.

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