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Utah Pays $349,000 for Unfair Ag-Gag Law

The state agrees to settle a lawsuit brought on by an animal-rights group over legislation silencing undercover investigations at factory farms.

The state of Utah agreed this week to pay $349,000 to animal-rights organizations to cover attorney fees and costs incurred in their battle to eliminate the state’s “ag-gag” law—legislation that prevents documenting abuse on factory farms. Animal-rights organizations, including Animal Legal Defense Fund and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, united in 2013 to file a lawsuit in an effort to overturn Utah’s standing ag-gag legislation. In July, Utah’s US District Court Judge Robert Shelby overturned the state’s 2012 law, stating that the legislation was unconstitutional because it violated free-speech rights protected by the First Amendment. “In sum,” Judge Selby stated in his ruling, “it appears the consensus among courts is that the act of recording is protectable First Amendment speech. And this court agrees.” In recent years, undercover investigations conducted by organizations such as MFA have led to increased public awareness regarding the plight of animals on factory farms and, subsequently, legislation that put stricter animal welfare practices in place nationwide.

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