As she would later tell independent journalist Will Potter, she noticed "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."

Meyer took out her cell phone and started recording. A Smith manager called the police, claiming Meyer had trespassed. But a Draper City officer allowed her to leave, believing she had remained on public land.

Two weeks later, city prosecutor Ben Rasmussen charged Meyer with "agricultural operation interference," a crime under Utah's new ag-gag law. She became the first person in American history to be ensnared for the crime of filming cows.

In April, Potter posted the tale of Meyer's travails on his website, Green Is the New Red ( The story went viral, attracting hundreds of thousands of readers before the site crashed from the volume.

Within a day, Rasmussen decided Meyer didn't make a very good criminal after all and dropped the charges.

Editor's note: The Humane Society of the United States and its Arizona branch successfully pushed in 2006 for Proposition 204, a measure that banned gestation crates — the small confinement cages that don't allow animals to turn around or stretch their limbs.

Humane Society officials said at the time that passage of the law would "provide more humane treatment of farm animals and will stop the spread of corporate factory farms in Arizona."

Voters overwhelmingly (67 percent) adopted the measure, an effort toward aiding an estimated 16,000 breeding pigs housed in such confining spaces on factory farms across Arizona.

The Humane Society was aided in its effort by the Animal Defense League of Arizona and Farm Sanctuary. Leading the opposition was the Arizona Farm Bureau and the Center for Consumer Freedom. A $2.5 million campaign was waged in a vain attempt to stop the proposition.

This isn't to say that farm and slaughterhouse abuse of animals isn't happening in Arizona, says Nathan Runkle, founder and executive director of Mercy for Animals. The gestation-crate issue is a narrow part of the huge problem, he says.

Runkle says, however, that his organization hasn't conducted investigations in this state. Neither has the Humane Society nor any other national animal-welfare association, according to the society's records, says Anna West, a national spokeswoman for the organization.

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My Voice Nation Help

I too am at the point of either becoming vegetarian or at least limiting consumption to locally, humanely raised meat. These factory farms are an abomination. It is an excuse for extreme animal abuse. Producers that see their animals as 'products', instead of the living, thinking, feeling creatures that they are, are disgusting. These gruesome torture chambers must be held to the same standards as anyone else when it comes to animal abuse. Sickening.


The theory that "happy" farm animals would not produce eggs, meat or milk, is ludicrous! No animal can be happy in factory farm conditions, and they do not have a choice whether to lay eggs or give milk or gain weight. These are forced on them by biology, as well as the fact that factory farming uses specially bred strains for these purposes, and feeds them hormones and antibiotics. Some of the breeds, particularly among birds, grow so huge so fast that they can't walk and have other health problems. They are typically slaughtered while still pretty much babies but their bodies are huge with meat.  The caged hen lays because she's been bred to lay an egg a day no matter what. The cow standing in her own waste produces milk because she has been artificially inseminated and gave birth, which prompts milk production especially in dairy breeds.  The layer hen industry "disposes" of male chicks by killing them, often horrifically, right after hatching.  Animals gain weight and produce because of breeding and drugs, not "happiness."

When I was a kid I lived in a farming community and never saw the unsanitary and cruel confinement conditions that are now common, until the factory farming model came along. Factory farming IS what is making me work to become vegan.  It isn't that I think the human species is naturally vegan, or that it's any more morally wrong to eat meat than it is for a lion to eat meat. It's that I can't support an industry run by sociopaths.


Thanks to Phoenix New Times and Pete Kotz for this article. I am a board member/volunteer with the Animal Defense League of Arizona, which along with HSUS and Farm Sanctuary, sponsored the 2006 initiative that banned gestation and veal crates.  

There actually was a decade-long investigation into Arizona's livestock auctions, dairies, and slaughterhouses, although it was on a small scale. In the early 1990's I became concerned about the treatment of farm animals and food safety. I joined with two other nurses to document animal cruelty in Arizona livestock auctions, where cows and infant calves too sick to stand up were left to suffer and die, sometimes for days. Thanks to help from Dr. Temple Grandin, local media, and other animal protection groups, our long-term investigation led to some improvements and public awareness.  However, we were no match for the powerful industrial agriculture lobby.

Fortunately some things have changed over the years. As mentioned Arizona voters banned the cruel confinement of pregnant pigs and calves raised for veal in 2006. There has been increasing public awareness of animal cruelty in factory farms throughout the country, thanks largely to those undercover investigators who have videotaped extreme abuse. And thanks to social media, those images are disseminated widely. However, what has not changed is the fact that the agriculture industry refuses to accept responsibility for its cruel treatment of animals and will continue to use its power to punish those that expose it. 

Undercover videos by animal protection organizations have led to cruelty charges and increased public awareness regarding cruel treatment of animals in large scale agricultural facilities. Yet instead of addressing animal abuse, the factory farming industry ramped up its attack on those who expose cruelty with the help of shadowy corporate front group ALEC (as mentioned in the article). 

Arizona State Legislators introduced ag-gag bills in the 2004 and 2005 sessions, which provided that any individual who videotapes animals at a circus, rodeo, or greyhound race could be charged with a felony, labeled a terrorist, and possibly sued for triple damages for economic loss.  These measures were  vetoed twice by then-Governor Napolitano, who eventually signed a version that had been substantially watered down from its original wording. However, it set a precedent by adding “animal and ecological terrorism” to Arizona's RICO (racketeering) statutes.

The fact that the cruel treatment of farm animals we documented 20 years ago has not changed illustrates the importance of whistle-blowers. The other fact that has not changed is that the agriculture industry refuses to accept responsibility for its cruel treatment of animals and instead attempts to criminalize those who dare to expose the abuse behind the closed doors of factory farms and slaughterhouses.

Kim Spencer
Kim Spencer

Outright torture and sadistic behavior towards a domesticated animal doesn't suddenly become an "acceptable standard of humane treatment" simply because an animal is ultimately going to end up on someone's plate. From the article: "supervisor Phil Niles is heard recounting an abuser's greatest hits: how he beat cows with wrenches, smashed their heads with two-by-fours, kicked them when they were too feeble to rise". I am very glad to know that there are more and more people who are demanding a humane level of care for animals, and I am one of those people. Gandhi said it best: "the greatness of a nation and it's moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated”. Great article, thanks for covering this issue, New Times :)

Kari Nienstedt
Kari Nienstedt

Thank you so much for covering this important issue!

Jennifer Salazar
Jennifer Salazar

Thanks for the article. These people are DISGUSTING. I don't know how you can call yourself a human being when you stab a cow in the face with a pitchfork and brag about how "big that fucker's face is" after you've beaten it with a crowbar. The worst kind of "human being" is the one who casually rips a pigs testicles out because they "can".

Mein Vater
Mein Vater

we deliver livestock & people YOU DON'T WANNA KNOW!! It's pretty disgusting!!!