An ag-gag law "typically refers to state laws that forbid the act of undercover filming or photography of activity on farms without the consent of their owner--particularly targeting whistleblowers of animals rights abuses at these facilities." The state of Utah, and at least 15 other states, have adopted "ag-gag" laws.
Back to the article. A federal judge in Utah recently found this ag-gag ban unconstitutional. In other words, he ruled that undercover filming or photography should be allowed under the protections of the First Amendment.
The judge stated that the safety of the animals was at issue, and under this ban, the state had failed to ensure that safety. In other words, the well-being of the animals trumped the farmers' privacy. I'm sure the presence of animal cruelty in the past and present also fed into this judgment. If there is reasonable cause for suspicion and concern, and if the ban increases the likelihood of animal endangerment, then undercover filming or photography to document and expose such cruelty should not be banned, but protected.
Consider the following from the article (emphasis mine):
The challenge to Utah ban was filed by the Animal Legal Defense Fund, PETA, and Amy Meyer, the director of the Utah Animal Rights Coalition. Meyer was arrested in 2013 while she filmed workers using heavy machinery to move a sick cow at a slaughterhouse in Draper City. At the time, Meyer was on public property; the charges against her were later dismissed.
"I was shocked when I was the one charged with a crime instead of that animal's abusers," Meyer said after the court ruled in her favor Friday. "It should never be a crime to tell the story of an animal who is being abused and killed, even if it's for food."
Now, when I first read the NPR article headline, I immediately thought of the undercover videos made by David Daleidan and Sandra Merritt as they attempted to uncover Planned Parenthood's complicity in the illegal sale of baby parts.
They have been charged with a number of felonies by state Attorney General Xavier Becerra. They have also been subject to a gag order which prohibits them from making these videos public, even to law enforcement.
In one statement, Mr. Becerra noted,
The right to privacy is a cornerstone of California’s Constitution, and a right that is foundational in a free democratic society. We will not tolerate the criminal recording of confidential conversations.But what if the dignity and humanity, the cruel commodification, of human babies is at issue? What if under this gag order, the state of California (not to mention Planned Parenthood) has failed to ensure that safety? In other words, what if PP's violation of laws prohibiting the sale of baby parts trumped their privacy? I'm sure the presence of baby cruelty in the past and present should feed into our conclusion on the matter. If there is reasonable cause for suspicion and concern, and if the judicial protection of Planned Parenthood under the guise of First Amendment protections actually ends up protecting criminal activity, then undercover filming to document and expose such criminality should not be banned, but protected.
The irony of these two contemporaneous cases is sad and telling. Shouldn't human baby cruelty be considered at least as concerning as cow cruelty? Is this a justice issue, or is it an issue of who wields the most cultural clout?