Utah to pay animal welfare groups $349,000 to settle ‘ag-gag’ lawsuit

If the Legislature doesn’t pay, the parties return to the judge.

Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune Daniel Widdison with the Utah Attorney's Office emerges from Federal court where atorneys for the national nonprofits Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) are fighting UtahÕs motion to dismiss the groupsÕ lawsuit, which challenges the constitutionality of UtahÕs controversial ag gag law.

The Utah Attorney General’s Office has agreed to pay animal welfare groups $349,000 to settle a lawsuit over the state’s “ag-gag” law, according to court documents filed on Friday.

As long as it’s approved by the Utah Legislature, the $349,000 will cover attorneys’ fees and costs, court documents state. If the Legislature doesn’t fund the payment, the parties will ask a judge to rule on an appropriate amount.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund and the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals, along with Amy Meyer — the first person charged in Utah with violating the ag-gag law — filed the lawsuit in 2013.

While standing on public property, Meyer had recorded a Draper meat-packing plant and was charged with a class B misdemeanor. The charge was dropped shortly after it was filed. Meyer had filmed a sick cow being pushed with a front-loader, according to the lawsuit.

The controversial ag-gag law — passed in 2012 — prohibited unauthorized filming of agriculture operations. The law also required someone interested in filming a livestock operation to get permission from the owner, prohibited lying to gain access to the operation, and made secret recording illegal.

A federal judge, siding with animal-rights activists, struck down the “ag-gag” law in July, ruling that it violated free-speech rights.