Woman Faced 6 Months in Jail For Filming Slaughterhouse ... From Across the Street! (UPDATED)

Update: The charges against Amy Meyer (see below for details) have been dropped, reports author and journalist Will Potter. While there's a chance the charges could be re-filed, the outrage the case generated makes that very unlikely, Potter writes. The outcome may have been different if the story had not generated such widespread media attention. 

A Utah woman has become the first person to be prosecuted under what are known as “ag-gag” laws, or laws meant to deter people from exposing animal rights abuses. 25-year-old Amy Meyer was charged in February after filming a slaughterhouse from what she says was public property. The case was first reported by Will Potter, author of the book Green Is the New Red: An Insider’s Account of a Social Movement Under Siege.

Meyer drove to the Dale Smith Meatpacking Company in Draper City, Utah to see the slaughterhouse for herself. And what she saw horrified her. Horns were scattered around the property. Cows struggled with workers. And she told Potter about one scene in particular that jarred her: “A live cow who appeared to be sick or injured being carried away from the building in a tractor, as though she were nothing more than rubble.” Meyer also told the Salt Lake City Tribune that “flesh” was “being spewed from a chute on the side of the building.”

Because she was filming all of this, the manager of the slaughterhouse told her to stop. Meyer refused, and insisted she was on public property. The manager claimed she had trespassed on the slaughterhouse’s property, but the police said that “there was no damage to the fence in my observation,” Potter reports.

Now, Meyer is being charged with a misdemeanor for allegedly interfering with agricultural operations. The charge is being brought under the new “ag-gag” law in Utah, and Meyer faces six months in jail. She has pleaded not guilty. Her defense attorney, Stewart Gollan, criticized the “ag-gag” law in an interview with the Salt Lake City Tribune.

“When you shield certain kinds of activities from public criticism, that raises some concerns,” said Gollan. 

"Ag-gag" laws like the one used to prosecute Meyer have proliferated around the country, fueled by model legislation crafted by the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council. Potter notes they "are designed to silence undercover investigators who expose animal welfare abuses on factory farms."

What makes the case even more striking is that the owner of the slaughterhouse is the mayor of Draper City, as Potter points out. The defense attorney for Meyer plans to ask the judge to recuse himself from the case since “judges in Draper’s justice court are appointed by the mayor with the advice of the City Council.”

Meyer’s next court date is May 23.

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