According to Utah news outlet KUTV, the state has agreed to pay $349,000 to animal rights groups to cover attorneys’ fees and other costs from the lawsuit that resulted in the overturning of the state’s unconstitutional “ag-gag” law.
Filed in 2013 by a group of organizations including the Animal Legal Defense Fund and PETA, the Utah lawsuit was the first of its kind. In July of this year, a federal judge ruled on the case, declaring the state’s ag-gag law unconstitutional. Writing for the District Court of Utah, Judge Robert Shelby criticized the law for “[s]uppressing broad swaths of protected speech without justification" and upheld the right of groups like Mercy For Animals to continue going undercover and exposing abuse at factory farms in the state. Just last month, Utah waived its right to appeal the ruling. This means the court’s decision stands and remains a victory in the fight to overturn these dangerous laws. In 2011 the factory farming industry started pushing hard for ag-gag laws designed to prevent animal protection groups from exposing abuse and other crimes at farm facilities in dozens of states. Most of the bills were defeated, but a handful of states passed them into law. While ag-gag laws in Idaho and Utah have been overturned, laws in Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, and North Carolina remain on the books. Recently, the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa, along with ALDF, PETA, and other organizations, filed a suit against the state’s ag-gag law. Meanwhile, undercover investigations by MFA and other groups continue to result in groundbreaking corporate animal welfare policy changes, new and improved laws to protect farmed animals and consumers, felony and misdemeanor convictions against animal abusers, and the closure of especially corrupt animal facilities.