Last week, Utah’s US District Court Judge Robert Shelby reversed the state’s “ag-gag” law—wherein citizens are banned from documenting abuse within the animal agriculture industry—stating that the standing 2012 law was unconstitutional as it violated the First Amendment right to free speech. “In sum, it appears the consensus among courts is that the act of recording is protectable First Amendment speech. And this court agrees,” Judge Shelby stated in his ruling. “Were the law otherwise, as the State contends, the State could criminalize, for example, creating music videos, or videos critical of the government, or any video at all, for that matter, with impunity.” The case was initially brought in front of Judge Shelby after activist Amy Meyer filmed an ill cow being moved in a tractor at a slaughterhouse in 2013, and would have carried a six-month prison sentence had Meyer have been convicted. “I was shocked when I was the one charged with a crime instead of that animal’s abusers,” Meyer said. “It should never be a crime to tell the story of an animal who is being abused and killed, even if it’s for food.” Currently, several ag-gag laws are still on the books in North Carolina, Montana, North Dakota, Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, and Arkansas.
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