Roy Exum: America’s First ‘Ag-Gag’ Victim
The town of Draper City, Utah, finally became famous this week when Amy Meyer became the first American to be charged with violating the irreprehensible “Ag-Gag” laws that have sprung up around the country. In the state of Utah a person faces a Class A misdemeanor of “agriculture operation interference” if they record an image or a sound of such an operation without the owner’s permission, which is punishable with up to six months in jail.
What makes the story particularly juicy is that Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam has such a bill now awaiting his signature to become a law and several other states are also considering similar measures. “Ag-Gag” laws – in essence – ban evidence of animal abuse and prohibit covert efforts that help to assure livestock is not tortured and sadistically sored in a way that is shamefully still rampant in the Tennessee Walking Horse industry.
Amy – the real “victim” because she was charged instead of those abusing the animals — was cited by police after she admitted she stood on public property and used her cell phone to film slaughters at the Dale T. Smith and Sons Meatpacking Company, which just so happens to be co-owned by Draper City Mayor Darrell Smith. Here’s what she said on Kirschner’s Korner Radio:
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“I visited the Smith Meatpacking Slaughterhouse in Draper, Utah because I have heard numerous reports that any bystander standing on the public thoroughfare could witness the horror of cows struggling for their lives as they were led to their violent deaths. What I saw was upsetting, to say the least. Cows being led inside the building struggled to turn around once they smelled and heard the misery that awaited them inside.
“I saw piles of horns scattered around the property and flesh being spewed from a chute on the side of the building. I also witnessed what I believe to be a clear act of cruelty to animals – a live cow who appeared to be sick or injured being carried away from the building in a tractor, as though she were nothing more than rubble.
“At all times while I documented this cruelty, I remained on public property. I never once crossed the barbed wire fence that exists to demarcate private and public property. I told this to the police who were on the scene.
“I am shocked and disappointed that I am being prosecuted by Draper City simply for standing on public property and documenting horrific animal abuse while those who perpetrated these acts are free to continue maiming and killing animals.”
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Police were called after a slaughterhouse supervisor told her to leave and no charges of animal abuse were filed on any employees at the slaughterhouse. Draper City is about 40 miles from Salt Lake City, where the newspaper and thousands of citizens now realize the ‘Ag-Gag’ laws punish the wrong person. Draper City is also home to the Utah State prison.
Utah prosecutors, who could have put Amy Meyer in jail for six months, dropped all charges like a hot potato, presumably because she never trespassed on the slaughterhouse property, but animal protection advocates around the nation are outraged and are actively pursuing state leaders to amend, abolish or change the controversial laws. One California newspaper called the failed “Ag-Gag” bill in that state as “the food industry’s biggest PR gaffe since New Coke.”
“The intent of these bills is crystal clear,” said Matt Dominguez of the Humane Society of the United States this week. “They are meant to keep the American public in the dark about the animal abuse and cruelty going on behind closed doors.”
In Tennessee the legislature recently passed a law by one vote demanding citizens to surrender any evidence of animal abuse within 48 hours. News media outlets claim that such a law would be a violation of the First Amendment and a direct counter to the state’s Reporter’s Shield Law. Groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union, the United Farm Workers, the National Consumers League, the Southern Poverty Law Center and state AFL-CIO chapters oppose “Ag-Gag” laws.
The Humane Society of the United States even launched a $100,000 advertising campaign and Governor Haslam’s office has received many thousands of letters, phone calls and petitions asking he use his veto power. The bill was sponsored in Tennessee by a pig producer, Andy Holt (R-Dresden) and the co-owner of a stockyard, Delores Grisham (R-Somerville).
Over 60,000 have now signed a petition on Change.org against Ag-Gag bills and Governor Haslam has said this is the biggest outcry from the public since he was elected into office.