Utah Ag-gag (Animal Legal Defense Fund v Herbert)
Amici brief in constitutional challenge to a Utah statute that criminalizes core whistleblowing activity in the farmed animal agricultural industry—in particular, slaughterhouses, meat processing plants, and factory farms. The law at issue—enacted by the state of Utah in 2012—makes it a crime to “interfere” with any agricultural operation or facility by virtue of taking photographs or recordings of the operation without the owner’s consent. That prohibition—colloquially known as an “Ag-gag” statute—criminalizes what has been, since the turn of the twentieth century, the key vehicle for exposing inhumane, unsafe, and illegal conditions in the industrial agriculture system. A similar law is on the books in over a dozen other states.
Ag-gag laws such as Utah’s pose a serious threat to public health and safety. Over the last few years, a number of major federal recalls of meat, poultry, and dairy products were prompted by undercover investigations launched by whistleblowers from the public interest community. These recalls helped stem the outbreak of diseases that have killed and injured thousands of unsuspecting consumers. Laws like Utah’s are expressly designed to block such investigations in order to prevent the public – and federal and state government’s – from knowing about unsafe conditions inside animal factories.