Utah ag-gag law ruled unconstitutional
Judge says there are other ways in which agriculture industry can address perceived threats
A federal judge has ruled that Utah’s ag-gag law is unconstitutional and is in violation of people’s free-speech rights.
The law, approved in 2012, made it illegal for a person to photograph or record an agricultural operation without the owner’s permission. The legislation also made it unlawful to obtain access to a farm under false pretenses, such as applying for a job at a farm with the intent of conducting what are commonly referred to as undercover investigations of the facilities.
In his July 7 ruling, U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby write: “Utah undoubtedly has an interest in addressing perceived threats to the state agricultural industry, and as history shows, it has a variety of constitutionally permissible tools at its disposal to do so. Supressing broad swaths of protected speech without justification, however, is not one of them.”
The ruling in Utah follows a 2015 ruling in which a federal judge deemed an ag-gag law in Idaho to be unconstitutional.
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A federal judge in Utah has sided with animal rights activists who argued that a law prohibiting undercover investigations of agricultural operations was unconstitutional. Activists contend that similar laws in other states “will fall like dominos.” In a Friday ruling, US District Judge Robert Shelby struck down Utah’s 'agricultural operation interference' law, otherwise known as the ag-gag law, declaring it a violation of free speech rights.