Earlier this year, animal rescue worker Amy Meyer was charged with “agricultural operation interference” after she filmed what was happening at a Utah slaughterhouse from a public strip of land.
Back in February, Meyer and a colleague found a slaughterhouse with a public view through a barbed wire fence. Dale T. Smith and Sons Meat Packing Company in Draper, Utah, had been pushing cows through the works in plain sight.
The 25-year-old Meyer began filming the operations as a forklift was pushing what may have been a lame cow, which was illegal to slaughter.
According to the Ag Gag laws, slaughterhouse filming is also illegal. Recording or taking pictures of the operations on the property of a meat processing plant is against the law.
Shortly after Meyer began recording, a truck pulled up in front of her.
Bret Smith, the facility’s operator and brother of Darrell Smith, the slaughterhouse owner who is also Draper's mayor, leaned over from the driver’s seat, filming her with a phone camera as she filmed him back.
Smith initially accused Meyer of trespassing, though she was plainly standing on the outside of the plant’s fence. Then he shifted tactics. “You cannot videotape my property from public property,” he said (this is in fact not what the law says). “If you read the rights here and the laws of Utah, you can’t film an agricultural property without my consent,” he continued, according to The Nation. Smith called the police.
After the police arrived and questioned Meyer, she was told by an officer that she was free to leave, but that he would “screen charges of criminal trespass” on her.
Eleven days later, prosecutors filed charges against her for “agricultural operation interference,” a Class B misdemeanor that carries a maximum six-month jail term.
At the end of April, Will Potter, a journalist who tracks government suppression of environmental and animal rights activists, broke the story of "the first prosecution in the country" under an Ag Gag law. The story was picked up by local and national media outlets, bringing just the kind of public attention to the agricultural industry that ALEC's model legislation was designed to prevent. Within 24 hours, the charges were dropped.
Agricultural industries created the Ag Gag law as a way to keep the public from having to witness the not so pretty goings-on behind the scenes of where their meat comes from. Progress has led the meat processing industry away from grazing and into mechanized factory-style feeding and slaughtering, eliminating the need for farm land and increasing efficiency.