Ag-Gag Laws Take Their Second Victim in Utah

by Vins

On September 27, 2014, Will Potter broke news on his website, Green is the New Red, that four individuals had been arrested and prosecuted in Utah for breaking agriculture gag laws after taking photographs of facilities belonging to Circle Four Farms. The four individuals, representatives from a non-profit organization known as Farm Animal Rights Movement (FARM), went to the specific site with the purpose of photographing and recording the transport of pigs 500 miles, from the farm to the slaughterhouse.

According to Potter’s report, employees of Circle Four Farms confronted the activist and threatened to involve authorities if they did not turn over their photographs. After refusing and driving away, the activists were pulled over by police further down the road. Bryan Monell, one in the group of four, told Will Potter that police were citing Utah’s ag-gag laws and urged them again to hand over photographs. At some point during their confrontation with police, the Circle Four Farm employees who had earlier challenged the activists returned and told police that the four people “broke through a barn door and were running through the sheds.” The activists maintain that they stood on public roads while photographing the facility. After being detained for five hours and refusing to turn over photographs, each of the four were given a citation for criminal trespass and one for agricultural operation interference, also known as ag-gag.

Circle Four Farms has had to be on high alert during the last year due to the controversies surrounding its practices. Circle Four has recently been in the line of fire for its role in deadly pig virus investigated by the USDA, the hotly debated buy-out of its parent company—Smithfield Foods—by a notable Chinese company, and various health studies that focus on the toxins produced in the local area by factory farms.

Utah is only one of seven states to pass ag-gag laws that criminalize any type of undercover photography or filming of concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) and slaughterhouses. The other states that have passed ag-gag laws include Iowa, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, Kansas, and North Dakota. According to The Dodo, an independent news source, “The [ag-gag] legislation spawned from a series of shocking undercover investigations in recent years by the Humane Society of the United States and Mercy for Animals that have resulted in plant shutdowns, animal cruelty charges, and public fury”. The passing of these ag-gag laws and virulent crackdown on undercover photographing, as evidenced by this most recent arrest, validates the fear that these factory farming corporations will go far to keep the public from knowing what is happening behind closed doors.

While ag-gag laws have been a hot topic in many media outlets, the Utah incident, which took place on September 24, 2014, has seen very limited coverage: As of November 10, 2014, the incident has only been covered by two separate independent news sources: Green is the New Red and The Dodo. There has been no corporate media attention on this specific incident.

Sources:

Will Potter, “4 People Prosecuted Under #AgGag Law for Photographing Factory Farm From the Road”, Green Is The New Red, September 27, 2014, http://www.greenisthenewred.com/blog/ag-gag-case-utah-circle-four-farms/8073/.

Alexi Howk, “What It’s Like To Be Detained and Prosecuted Under Ag-Gag Law”, The Dodo, October 22, 2014, https://www.thedodo.com/what-its-like-to-be-detained-a-776800493.html.

Student Researchers: Hana Wuerker and Katie Valentine (Pomona College)

Faculty Evaluator: Andy Lee Roth (Pomona College)