The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has threatened to file a lawsuit against the Kansas State Fair for violating PETA’s right to free speech; specifically, the right to show a 13 minute undercover video of packing plants and large animal confinements. PETA was granted to right to set up a booth at the fair but was not allowed to show the video or any pictures depicting animal processing. The American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas and Western Missouri (ACLU) have agreed to represent PETA in a possible lawsuit against the Kansas State Fair for imposing restrictions based on content, thereby, violating PETA’s right to free speech. Via Drovers Cattle Network
The restriction is undisputedly targeted at the content of PETA’s message. Therefore, Kansas would have to prove PETA’s content would disrupt a legitimate government purpose for which the State Fair has been dedicated. Kansas could possibly argue the content disrupts the legitimate government interest of establishing a family friendly environment which caters to all ages, including young children. While graphic footage of animal processing may not be best suited for young audiences, a court may not want to get trapped into constitutionally defining a “family friendly environment”.
The Iowa State Fair handled PETA’s video a little differently. Iowa Fair officials were concerned about the language subtitled in the video rather than the images presented; specifically the F-word. The film portrays a turkey farm employee trying to break a bird’s neck stating “Sometimes they’re (expletive) hard to kill.” While PETA claimed they were kicked out of the fair, Fair officials reported PETA packed up their booth and left overnight. PETA eventually returned to the fair and showed the video, with the expletive removed from the subtitles. Via the Des Moines Register.
Whatever the outcome of Kansas’ prohibition against the video, we can expect PETA to continue showing up at state fairs. PETA will either present the graphic video to state fair-goers or promote the video nationally on the coattails of constitutional rights lawsuits. In the end, it is a win-win strategy for PETA’s message which PETA will keep pushing.