Amy Meyer has the distinction of being the first person in the country charged under an “ag-gag” law, a new type of legislation passed by several states and being considered by others, designed to silence undercover investigators who expose animal welfare abuses on factory farms.
The scene of the crime was the Dale T. Smith and Sons Meat Packing Co. in Draper City, Utah, where Meyer stood on the road outside the plant and used her cell phone to capture video of what she later described as “piles of horns” and “flesh being spewed from a chute on the side of the building, cows struggling to turn around after they smelled and heard the misery that awaited them inside,” and ”an apparently sick or injured cow being carried away in a tractor.”
While she was recording, a person from the slaughterhouse approached her and said she wasn’t allowed to film the operations. She responded that she was within her rights on public property. The police arrived, questioned her and allowed her to leave without pressing charges.
Nine days later she was charged with a class B misdemeanor for interference with an agricultural operation, which carries a penalty of up to six months in jail. Meyer pleaded not guilty.
Meyer’s attorney, Stewart Gollan, argued that she never crossed into private property and believed that her behavior was constitutionally protected. Gollan also noted that the police report states there was no evidence of interference.
Journalist Will Potter broke the story about Meyer’s arrest on his Greenisthenewred website. Just 24 hours later, the Draper City prosecutor’s office dropped all the charges. More from Potter on this refreshing development can be found here.
Utah passed their ag-gag law in 2012. Nebraska, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Vermont are currently considering similar bills. Tennessee just tabled one, but a similar bill is expected to be reintroduced there in the near future.