U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby issued a 31-page ruling that rejected the defendants’ arguments that free-speech rights are not guaranteed when people are on private property (such as animal processing plants).
He also wrote that the law protects the safety of animals and workers.
The ruling noted that the agricultural industry is vital to the U.S. economy but the First Amendment rights (freedom of speech) of individuals must be protected.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and Amy Meyer – who was charged with violating the Utah law in 2013 –challenged the 2012 agricultural operation interference law by suing Utah Gov. Gary Herbert and Utah Atty. Gen. Sean Reyes.
Because the ruling was made by a federal judge, it has implications beyond Utah.