Woman Prosecuted For Filming Slaughterhouse From The Road In Utah; Public Backlash Leads To Quick Reversal

from the ag-gag-gagged dept

We've written a few times now about so-called ag gag laws that have been pushed by lobbyists for the farm industry for years now. The bills are pretty ridiculous, often making it illegal to videotape or photograph an agricultural operation. While many people talked about how ridiculous the prosecutions would be under those bills, supporters insisted that the bills were really only for cases where activists were doing something really egregious. In Utah, which has one of these bills, during the debate over the bill, the Utah Sentencing Commission warned that it could be used against anyone who merely photographed a farm. In response, Rep. Greg Hughes said: "Who would really pursue that in terms of prosecution?" Well, now we have an answer: the local prosecutor in Draper, Utah (which, coincidentally, appears to be the district Rep. Hughes represents.

As pointed out by Mike Eber, a woman named Amy Meyer used her mobile phone camera to video tape what was happening at the Dale Smith Meatpacking Company, which she could see from the street. Dale Smith, it should be noted, also happens to be the mayor of Draper. Another coincidence, I'm sure.
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.
Of course, as soon as this story started getting publicity, prosecutors suddenly decided that perhaps this wasn't a case to take a stand on and quickly dropped the charges. Of course, the law is still on the books (as are similar laws in a number of other states) and it's entirely possible similar cases may pop up elsewhere, when there's less publicity and press coverage.

Filed Under: ag gag, utah

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  1. identicon
    Andrew D. Todd, 2 May 2013 @ 3:45pm

    The Secret Agent

    There's an article in this month's Harper's Magazine (Ted Conover, "The Way of All Flesh: Undercover in an Industrial Slaughterhouse", Harpers, May 2013, pp.31-49), about conditions in a meat-packing plant. Mr Conover got a job as a federal meat inspector. The federal civil service system is extremely fair, much more so than any private employment system. There is no such thing as "over-qualified" in the federal system (*). If you are an American citizen, have a clean police record, one or more good college degrees, the ability to ace standardized tests without difficulty, and the willingness to ship out to wherever there is an opening, even if it is in a small town a couple of thousand miles away, in short, if you are an exemplary applicant, you can basically have a commonplace job such as mail carrier or meat inspector for the asking. Since Conover is Distinguished Writer in Residence at NYU's Journalism school, and has written several books, he qualifies, obviously. Equally obviously, the USDA doesn't have to ask nicely about putting meat inspectors into a meat-packing plant, and it's none of the meat-packing company's damm business if one of the meat inspectors seems to be a sometime college professor. Most of the meat inspectors are former plant workers, who went to night school to qualify for a better federal job.

    Here is the USDA job sheet:

    https://www.usajob s.gov/GetJob/ViewDetails/318165500

    (*) One time, I was eating in McDonald's, and two people from the head office were conducting employment interviews for a manager position in the next booth, which gives you an idea how McDonald's operates. At any rate, they interviewed a candidate who was an engineering student, and then, after he had left, decided against him, on the grounds that they could not see why someone like that would want to work for them-- they didn't want someone who would quit the day he got his degree. They wanted someone who would be their slave.

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