First “Ag-Gag” Prosecution: Filming a Slaughterhouse From the Street

April 29, 2013 | By | 3 Replies More

Flickr - Cows - mrbillWill Potter, Green Is The New Red
Waking Times

Amy Meyer wanted to see the slaughterhouse for herself. She had heard that anyone passing by could view the animals, so she drove to Dale Smith Meatpacking Company in Draper City, Utah, and from the side of the road she could see through the barbed-wire fence. Piles of horns littered the property. Cows struggled with workers who tried to lead them into a building. And one scene in particular made her stop.

“A live cow who appeared to be sick or injured being carried away from the building in a tractor,” Meyer told me, “as though she were nothing more than rubble.”

As she witnessed this, Meyer did what most of us would in the age of smart phones and YouTube: she recorded.

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.

Even the most sweeping ag-gag bills, such as the American Legislative Exchange Council model legislation, don’t explicitly target filming from a roadside. But Nebraska, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Vermont are all considering bills similar to the Utah law right now.

Pennsylvania’s bill criminalizes anyone who “records an image of, or sound from, the agricultural operation” or who “uploads, downloads, transfers or otherwise sends” the footage using the Internet.

North Carolina’s bill doesn’t specifically mention factory farms or slaughterhouses: it is called the “Commerce Protection Act,” and it includes investigations of any industry. It was introduced on the same day a fifth employee of Butterball pleaded guilty to animal cruelty after an undercover investigation showed workers beating turkeys.

Tennessee’s bill has already passed and is awaiting signature from the governor. In response to calls for a veto from the Humane Society and Carrie Underwood, one state representative compared undercover investigations to rape and sex-trafficking.

California’s ag-gag bill recently failed, after a massive public backlash. One newspaper editorial said “the cattlemen have committed the worst PR gaffe since New Coke.” The bill was a response to an undercover investigation by the Humane Society that showed “downer” cows, too sick to move, being pushed by tractors (much like what Amy Meyer recorded in Utah). It led to the largest meat recall in U.S. history.

The public backlash against these bills, including recent editorials by the New York Times and Washington Post, has relied  on hypothetical examples of how they could be used. The AFL-CIO and Teamsters say they could put workers at risk. The ASPCA says they could shut down lawful investigations by animal protection groups. The National Press Photographers Association says they could wrap up journalists.

The first ag-gag prosecution should be a warning that these aren’t hypothetical concerns. These bills have one purpose: keep consumers in the dark. Rather than respond to video footage of animal cruelty with across-the-board reforms, the industry is trying to turn off the cameras.

It’s telling that the owner of the slaughterhouse Amy Meyer filmed happens to be Darrell H. Smith, the town mayor. (Mayor Smith, the meatpacking company, and the local prosecutor did not return phone calls for comment). If that’s shocking to you, it shouldn’t be. In Iowa, for example, the nation’s first ag-gag law was sponsored by Rep. Annette Sweeney, who is the former director of the Iowa Angus Association.

In Utah, the bill’s sponsor, Rep. John Mathis, called undercover investigators “animal rights terrorists” and said video recordings of animal abuse are “propaganda.” In his opening remarks at a legislative hearing on the ag-gag bill, Mathis said: “It’s fun to see my good ag friends in this committee… all my good friends are here.” Ag-gag supporters couldn’t be any more transparent in their financial motivations for censorship.

It was prescient that, as the Utah bill was being considered, the Utah Sentencing Commission warned that it could be used against anyone who merely takes a photograph of a farm or slaughterhouse. At the time, Rep. Greg Hughes of Draper replied: “Who would really pursue that in terms of prosecution?” Now, the first ag-gag prosecution is for precisely that, in his own district.

Most people won’t ever find themselves in the position of Amy Meyer, of course. Few of us actively seek out information about how our food is produced. (Do you know the location of a factory farm, if you wanted to?) The animal products just arrive at the supermarket, without investigation or thought.

With ag-gag bills, the industry is trying to keep it that way. These bills are not just about animal activists from national organizations going undercover. They are about people like Amy Meyer, who have seen how animals are being treated, and who want you to see what they have seen.

Most importantly, ag-gag bills are about you — the millions of Americans who might see this footage, be sickened by it, and demand a change.

About the Author

Will Potter is the author of Green Is the New Red: An Insider’s Account of a Social Movement Under Siege (City Lights, 2011).

Concerned about ag-gag laws? Join the 40,000+ others who have signed the petition at Change.org/AgGag

This article is offered under Creative Commons license. It’s okay to republish it anywhere as long as attribution bio is included and all links remain intact.


~~ Help Waking Times to raise the vibration by sharing this article with the buttons below…

Tags: , , , , , ,

Category: Activism, Agriculture, Animals, Business, Community, Earth, Food, Governance, Law & Punishment, Money, Society

Comments (3)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Ken says:

    How about educating people on the fact that we do not even have to eat meat so people would naturaly stop buying it and that would put a stop to this nonsense, or at least slow it down. Eating corpses is a major cause of diseases.

  2. Kenzob Breaze says:

    If you think this treatment of animals is sickening, and it is, someone should film the horrors of KOSHER slaughter! It is beyond the most terrifying nightmare.

  3. David C says:

    isn’t it great to see legality used to protect the horrors of the world instead of prosecute it? :(

Leave a Reply

Must Watch Videos

Link Found Between Food Allergies and Farm Antibiotics

Link Found Between Food Allergies and Farm Antibiotics













Dr. Mercola
Waking Times

Food allergies affect an estimated 15 million Americans, including one in 13 children. Statistics indicate something strange is afoot, as food allergies in children rose by 50 percent between 1997 and 2011 alone.

Similarly, in Great Britain one in three people are allergic to something, be … More

September 18, 2014 | By | Reply More
Drop Out and Simplify Your Life

Drop Out and Simplify Your Life













Zen Gardner, Guest
Waking Times

I was thinking about this very subject and sat down to put some notes together when I stopped to moderate comments on the site. And here was this synchronistic and very wise comment from Soliel:

Despite all the fear-mongering out there, many have remained … More

September 17, 2014 | By | 2 Replies More
Coconut Water is One of the Greatest Nutritional from Nature

Coconut Water is One of the Greatest Nutritional from Nature













Karen Foster, Prevent Disease
Waking Times

The first documented use of coconut water dates back just a few centuries, however it’s safe to assume humans have been enjoying this supreme hydrator as long as we’ve been around coconut palms. Here’s why young coconut water has one of the highest sources … More

September 17, 2014 | By | 2 Replies More
How Monsanto and Big-Ag are Fighting Back Against Anti-GMO Activism

How Monsanto and Big-Ag are Fighting Back Against Anti-GMO Activism













Dr. Mercola
Waking Times

Between 2012 and mid-2014, Monsanto and the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) successfully blocked GMO labeling legislation in over 30 states, at a price tag of more than $100 million.

These funds were received from the 300+ members of the GMA, which include chemical/pesticide, GE seed, and … More

September 16, 2014 | By | Reply More
A Letter To My Siblings

A Letter To My Siblings













Zen Gardner, Guest
Waking Times

A note from Zen: An answer to a question from awakening siblings about how have I kept up with world and American events being outside the US so many years. This is part of a discussion on world topics that we’ve been debating including More

September 13, 2014 | By | 5 Replies More

Activism Works

7 Ways Cannabis Legalization Has Already Benefited Colorado

7 Ways Cannabis Legalization Has Already Benefited Colorado













Jeff Roberts, Collective-Evolution
Waking Times

January 1st 2014 saw the opening of the very first cannabis shop in Colorado as the cultivation, manufacture and sale of the controversial plant became fully legalized. Since then, the state has seen a lot of promising results.

Laura Pegram of Drugpolicy.org wrote in her … More

September 16, 2014 | By | Reply More
Sweden Recycling 99 Percent Of Garbage, Edging Closer To Zero-Waste

Sweden Recycling 99 Percent Of Garbage, Edging Closer To Zero-Waste













April McCarthy, Prevent Disease
Waking Times

There’s a revolution happening in Sweden right now. Dubbed the “recycling revolution,” the Scandinavian country now recycles 99 percent of their garbage, edging closer to a zero-waste lifestyle, nationwide.

Wouldn’t it be great if no household waste was wasted? If each and every item … More

September 4, 2014 | By | 6 Replies More
Food as Medicine: How One Hospital Is Using Organic Produce to Help Heal Patients

Food as Medicine: How One Hospital Is Using Organic Produce to Help Heal Patients













Coach Mark Smallwood, EcoWatch
Waking Times

In 431 B.C. Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”

More than 2500 years later, we are inundated with advertisements boasting the latest, greatest cure-all super drug. From a young age, we learn that it doesn’t matter how or … More

August 23, 2014 | By | 4 Replies More
As Keystone XL Dominoes Fall, Time to Arrest Tar Sands Industry

As Keystone XL Dominoes Fall, Time to Arrest Tar Sands Industry













, EcoWatch
Waking Times

We’ve got this.

Thanks to the courageous and indefatigable efforts of pipeline fighters everywhere, the tide has finally turned on Keystone XL. As it becomes increasingly clear that Keystone XL’s northern leg is not going through, it is time to set our sights … More

August 4, 2014 | By | 2 Replies More
Seizing Control of Our Destinies

Seizing Control of Our Destinies













Julian Rose, Contributor
Waking Times

In 1381, at a time of great repression for the British agricultural work force, an extraordinary people’s revolutionary named Wat Tyler sprang to his feet and announced, “England should be a nation of self governing communities,” to which he added, “ No lord shall exercise … More

July 28, 2014 | By | 5 Replies More