First ‘Ag-Gag’ Prosecution Collapses
So she drove to the Dale Smith Meatpacking Company in Draper City, Utah, stood at the side of the road, looked through the barbed wire fence, and took photos and video with her smart phone.
The slaughterhouse manager called the police.
He told the police that Meyer had crossed the barbed-wire fence. But police agreed with Meyer that she couldn't have since "there was no damage to the fence" and that she was clearly on public property and was not violating any law.
Still, Meyer was informed, 10 days later, that she was being prosecuted under Utah's ag-gag law, which makes it a crime for anyone to knowingly or intentionally record an image or even a sound on the premises of an agricultural operation without the owner's consent.
The slaughterhouse is owned in part by the mayor of the city.Adding to the shadiness of the whole story is the fact that the slaughterhouse is owned in part by none other than the mayor of the city, Darrell H. Smith.
Yesterday, as publicity mounted and the absurdity of the accusations was revealed, prosecutors dropped the charges. According to the blog Green is the New Red:
The charges were dismissed without prejudice, which means there’s a possibility of them being filed again, but her attorney says this is highly, highly unlikely — especially after the massive outpouring of outraged after yesterday’s article.
In an editorial, the Salt Lake Tribune wrote:
This incident should not be swept under the rug. ... By singling out one industry for extraordinary — and perhaps unconstitutional — protection from whistleblowers, lawmakers succeeded in doing nothing so much as making people wonder just what they are up to that is so shameful.
... The charges were dismissed. That’s good for Meyer. But it should just be the beginning for the people of Draper, and for county and state officials, who now have reason to wonder if the apparently baseless charges had anything to do with the fact that the slaughterhouse is partly owned by Draper Mayor Darrell H. Smith.
And now would be a really good time for state and federal inspectors to visit the Dale T. Smith and Sons Meat Packing Co. of Draper. Just to see what it is that they don’t want anyone taking pictures of.
A good summary of states who are passing or have passed ag-gag laws in an attempt to stop investigators taking video of the horrors of slaughterhouses and factory farms can be found at Green Is the New Red.
The Humane Society of the U.S. is fighting all these ag-gag bills. An example of what they and others are trying to bring to public attention can be found here.