Roy Exum: America’s First ‘Ag-Gag’ Victim

Saturday, May 4, 2013 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

The town of Draper City, Utah, finally became famous this week when Amy Meyer became the first American to be charged with violating the irreprehensible “Ag-Gag” laws that have sprung up around the country. In the state of Utah a person faces a Class A misdemeanor of “agriculture operation interference” if they record an image or a sound of such an operation without the owner’s permission, which is punishable with up to six months in jail.

What makes the story particularly juicy is that Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam has such a bill now awaiting his signature to become a law and several other states are also considering similar measures. “Ag-Gag”  laws – in essence – ban  evidence of animal abuse and prohibit covert efforts that help to assure livestock is not tortured and sadistically sored in a way that is shamefully still rampant in the Tennessee Walking Horse industry.

Amy – the real “victim” because she was charged instead of those abusing the animals -- was cited by police after she admitted she stood on public property and used her cell phone to film slaughters at the Dale T. Smith and Sons Meatpacking Company, which just so happens to be co-owned by Draper City Mayor Darrell Smith. Here’s what she said on Kirschner’s Korner Radio:

* * *

“I visited the Smith Meatpacking Slaughterhouse in Draper, Utah because I have heard numerous reports that any bystander standing on the public thoroughfare could witness the horror of cows struggling for their lives as they were led to their violent deaths. What I saw was upsetting, to say the least. Cows being led inside the building struggled to turn around once they smelled and heard the misery that awaited them inside.

“I saw piles of horns scattered around the property and flesh being spewed from a chute on the side of the building. I also witnessed what I believe to be a clear act of cruelty to animals – 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.

“At all times while I documented this cruelty, I remained on public property. I never once crossed the barbed wire fence that exists to demarcate private and public property. I told this to the police who were on the scene.

“I am shocked and disappointed that I am being prosecuted by Draper City simply for standing on public property and documenting horrific animal abuse while those who perpetrated these acts are free to continue maiming and killing animals.”

* * *

Police were called after a slaughterhouse supervisor told her to leave and no charges of animal abuse were filed on any employees at the slaughterhouse. Draper City is about 40 miles from Salt Lake City, where the newspaper and thousands of citizens now realize the ‘Ag-Gag’ laws punish the wrong person. Draper City is also home to the Utah State prison.

Utah prosecutors, who could have put Amy Meyer in jail for six months, dropped all charges like a hot potato, presumably because she never trespassed on the slaughterhouse property, but animal protection advocates around the nation are outraged and are actively pursuing state leaders to amend, abolish or change the controversial laws. One California newspaper called the failed “Ag-Gag” bill in that state as “the food industry’s biggest PR gaffe since New Coke.”

“The intent of these bills is crystal clear,” said Matt Dominguez of the Humane Society of the United States this week. “They are meant to keep the American public in the dark about the animal abuse and cruelty going on behind closed doors.”

In Tennessee the legislature recently passed a law by one vote demanding citizens to surrender any evidence of animal abuse within 48 hours. News media outlets claim that such a law would be a violation of the First Amendment and a direct counter to the state’s Reporter’s Shield Law. Groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union, the United Farm Workers, the National Consumers League, the Southern Poverty Law Center and state AFL-CIO chapters oppose “Ag-Gag” laws.

The Humane Society of the United States even launched a $100,000 advertising campaign and Governor Haslam’s office has received many thousands of letters, phone calls and petitions asking he use his veto power. The bill was sponsored in Tennessee by a pig producer, Andy Holt (R-Dresden) and the co-owner of a stockyard, Delores Grisham (R-Somerville).

Over 60,000 have now signed a petition on Change.org against Ag-Gag bills and Governor Haslam has said this is the biggest outcry from the public since he was elected into office.

royexum@aol.com

AgGag Whistleblower Amy Meyer
AgGag Whistleblower Amy Meyer

Christmas

It was December and we were headed home from our annual Christmas dinner with friends. Turning right to go up our mountain, Nanners laid her head on my shoulder, cold nose in the crook of my neck, causing me to look hard left… smack dab at that pair of Golden Arches. Her life philosophy is “being good gets ya stuff” and except for Elvis staying out one night chasing that 4-legged ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Trump's Latest Delight

I was quite amused this week when Donald Trump’s administration “locked out” several news organizations from the daily press briefings at the White House. The reason I loved it because in the 50 years I have spent in the news business, I have been locked out of press conferences, too. To be truthful, I am a longtime veteran of a bunch of “you versus me” squabbles and, if I do say, ... (click for more)

2 Homes Totally Destroyed By Fire On Sunday In Separate Blazes

Two homes were totally destroyed by fire in separate blazes on Sunday afternoon. At  5 p.m. , a neighbor called 911 reporting a house fire at 3910 Fairmont Pike on Signal Mountain. Walden's Ridge Emergency Services responded and arrived on the scene reporting a fully involved house fire. A mutual aid response was requested for additional manpower and apparatus ... (click for more)

Signal School Study Says Under Own School System Much More Could Go To The Classroom; Lennon Says Getting Land, Buildings A Major Issue

A panel studying a new school system operated by Signal Mountain concluded that much more money could go directly into the classroom, helping students further increase their potential.   However, County School Board member Kathy Lennon said how the town would be able to acquire the land and buildings is a major issue.   A group of Signal Mountain residents ... (click for more)

Mocs Close Out Regular Season At Citadel

The Chattanooga Mocs head to Charleston, S.C., for the regular season finale at The Citadel. They do so with a great deal of certainty for the upcoming Southern Conference Championships in Asheville, N.C.   The Mocs are the fourth seed and face No. 5 Wofford on Saturday, March 4, at 2:30 p.m. The rest of their half of the bracket is determined Monday night. The winner of ... (click for more)

Chattanooga Softball Falls To Saint Louis 5-2 In Frost Classic

 The Chattanooga Mocs softball team fell to Saint Louis, 5-2, on the final day of the annual Frost Classic hosted by UTC at Frost Stadium. The loss drops the Mocs to 5-9 on the season. Chattanooga will head south for the next three weekends as they round out the non-conference tournament slate. The first runs of the game came in the top of the second when SLU scored ... (click for more)