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Woman Arrested for Filming Slaughterhouse Violations from a Public Street

May 8, 2013

Amy Meyer was standing on the street filming a downed cow, still alive, being moved by a tractor in a slaughterhouse, and she has been arrested for it.  There is a new spate of laws called “ay-gag” legislation aimed at turing off the cameras that have filmed animal cruelty cases in an attempt to “protect” slaughterhouses from negative publicity. Amy Meyer is the first person targeted by these ag-gag laws.

It’s telling that the owner of the slaughterhouse Amy Meyer filmed happens to be Darrell H. Smith, the town mayor. (Mayor Smith, the meatpacking company, and the local prosecutor did not return phone calls for comment). If that’s shocking to you, it shouldn’t be. In Iowa, for example, the nation’s first ag-gag law was sponsored by Rep. Annette Sweeney, who is the former director of the Iowa Angus Association.

In Utah, the bill’s sponsor, Rep. John Mathis, called undercover investigators “animal rights terrorists” and said video recordings of animal abuse are “propaganda.” In his opening remarks at a legislative hearing on the ag-gag bill, Mathis said: “It’s fun to see my good ag friends in this committee… all my good friends are here.” Ag-gag supporters couldn’t be any more transparent in their financial motivations for censorship.

It was prescient that, as the Utah bill was being considered, the Utah Sentencing Commission warned that it could be used against anyone who merely takes a photograph of a farm or slaughterhouse. At the time, Rep. Greg Hughes of Draper replied: “Who would really pursue that in terms of prosecution?” Now, the first ag-gag prosecution is for precisely that, in his own district.

Somehow people who document animal abuse are “animal rights terrorists” in the big business arena?

It seems that this pits the humane treatment of animals against big business and industry that appears to want to foster animal abuse.

Strange that the meat industry has never spoken out against animal abuse, strange that animal abuse seems almost welcomed, and even stranger that the first target is a woman standing on a street with a camera.  Then again, is the filming the issue, or is it the publication?  If it occurs on a public street, how is it that slaughterhouses get more protections than human beings?  Celebrities have no right to privacy on the street, but now slaughterhouses do?  Animal abusers have more rights than other people, namely the right to not have their abuses made public while celebrities have the onus to try to evade photographers without any protections? Why is it that animal abusers have different rights to privacy than entertainers or people working in the public eye?

Meyer was allowed to leave. She later found out she was being prosecuted under the state’s new “ag-gag” law. This is the first prosecution in the country under one of these laws, which are designed to silence undercover investigators who expose animal welfare abuses on factory farms. The legislation is a direct response to a series of shocking investigations by groups like the Humane Society, Mercy for Animals, and Compassion Over Killing that have led to plant closures, public outrage, and criminal charges against workers.

Even the most sweeping ag-gag bills, such as the American Legislative Exchange Council model legislation, don’t explicitly target filming from a roadside. But Nebraska, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Vermont are all considering bills similar to the Utah law right now.

Pennsylvania’s bill criminalizes anyone who “records an image of, or sound from, the agricultural operation” or who “uploads, downloads, transfers or otherwise sends” the footage using the Internet.

Here is an excerpt from Change.org, about a petition set up by people who want to see animal abuse reported. I am trying to figure out how to sign it. If any of my readers figure it out, please let me know in comments.

To:
ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council)
Ron Scheberle, Executive Director
John Eick, Legislative Analyst, Energy, Environment and Agriculture and Civil Justice Task Forces
Bill Meierling, Senior Director, Communications and Public Affairs
Stop bills that make it a crime to expose animal abuse on factory farms.Consumers have a right to make safe, healthy, and humane decisions about what we buy.

Sincerely,
[Your name]

NPR reported on this story here: http://www.onthemedia.org/2013/mar/01/states-consider-so-called-ag-gag-bills/

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