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Iron County Prosecutors Drop “Ag-Gag” Charges

Animal rights activist Sarah Jane Hardt took this photo while on a trip to Utah to document the journey of pigs from Circle Four Farms to a slaughterhouse in California.

Iron County prosecutors are dropping charges against four animal rights activists filed under Utah’s controversial ag-gag law.

The charges stem from a September trip by four activists from California to Circle Four pig farms in southwestern Utah to take pictures. The activists pleaded not guilty last week to charges of criminal trespassing and interfering with an agricultural operation, violating what’s known as Utah’s ag-gag law. Iron County District Attorney Scott Garrett told KUER Monday that his office is dropping the ag-gag charge at the request of Circle Four Farms. The activists still face one misdemeanor charge of trespassing.

A spokesperson for Circle Four’s parent company Smithfield Foods said in a statement that it is their policy not to comment on legal proceedings. The attorney representing the defendants is T. Matthew Phillips. He says his clients were not trying to provoke an arrest and he’s pleased the ag-gag charge was dropped.

“My primary objective has always been to try to get the charges dropped in their entirety,” Phillips says. “I think my clients may have ideas they want to share with the rest of the world about ag-gag, and I hope they do that because it’s important that we continue the dialog about these.”

Utah is one of seven states with laws that make it a crime to conduct undercover investigations of slaughterhouses and factory farms. Animal rights groups are suing to strike down Utah’s law in federal court.

Andrea Smardon is new at KUER, but she has worked in public broadcasting for more than a decade. Most recently, she worked as a reporter and news announcer for WGBH radio. While in Boston, she produced stories for Morning Edition, Marketplace Money, and The World. Her print work was published in The Boston Globe and Prior to that, she worked at Seattleââ
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