PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) and the Animal Legal Defense Fund are two of the plaintiffs that filed a lawsuit with a federal court in Salt Lake City, Utah on Monday in efforts to overturn a state law criminalizing undercover footage taken at factory farm operations.
Known as "ag-gag" laws, the bills, which have passed in several states recently, are being purported as protecting "property rights", but activists say the rulings impinge on rights of free expression.
The Huffington Post reported that support for PETA and the Animal Legal Defense Fund in this case includes attorneys from the University of Denver's Sturm College of Law and constitutional scholar Erwin Chemerinksy of the University of California at Irvine. "The Utah law is very much directed at restricting speech, and especially particular messages," Chemerinksy told the Post. "This is exactly what the First Amendment prohibits."
Animal activists say the laws aren't about protecting property rights at all, but rather, are being used as a diversion and a shield to hide the rampant animal abuse common on large-scale factory farms. "We have the right to bring animal cruelty to light and will not allow politicians or industry insiders to violate these rights," said Stephen Wells, executive director of the Animal Legal Defense Fund.
Ag-gag laws are approved in Montana, North Dakota, Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas and South Carolina. Bills have failed to pass in California, New York, Tennessee, Minnesota, Washington, Florida, Illinois, Wyoming, Indiana, New Mexico, New Hampshire and Vermont. North Carolina and Pennsylvania both have ag-gag bills pending.
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Image: Socially Responsible Agriculture Project