WICHITA, Kan. – A US District Court judge in Wichita ruled that the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) must shield people passing by the group’s booth at the Kansas State Fair, from seeing a video containing graphic depictions of animal slaughter and abuse.
"Given the facts of the case, including the nature of the fair and the prevailing case law, the court finds that the Kansas State Fair is a limited public forum,” wrote Judge Thomas J. Marten. “In addition, it concludes that the limited restriction on graphic images is reasonable in light of the purpose and nature of the fair, and that the restriction is viewpoint neutral.”
Marten also denied a motion by the state of Kansas to dismiss PETA’s lawsuit. PETA said it is considering an appeal of the verdict.
“The Kansas State Fair’s requirement that PETA hide its video from fairgoers is like the Wizard of Oz telling Dorothy that she can’t look behind the curtain,” PETA said in a statement in response to the ruling. “We believe the First Amendment means that we can show our video without limitation to reveal what the animal agriculture industry wishes no one would see — that animals confined in filth on factory farms are routinely beaten and kicked by workers and have their throats cut open while they’re still conscious at the slaughterhouse.”
PETA had planned to display a 13-minute video called Glass Walls. The group says the video depicts animal cruelty on "factory farms". It is narrated by former Beatle lead singer, Paul McCartney, a vegetarian. But organizers of the Kansas State Fair ordered PETA to shield passersby from the video. PETA sued the Kansas State Fair and the fair’s general manager arguing that the restriction infringed on the group’s First Amendment rights. But in PETA’s free speech argument fell short in court.
“PETA has failed to offer any evidence in support of its First Amendment claim, other than the bare text of its application paperwork,” Marten wrote in his opinion. “There is no evidence, for example, that the Board has turned a blind eye and allowed other exhibits to show graphic images of hunting imagery, or graphic representations of animal slaughter from a “how-to” standpoint. Nor is there any evidence showing that the Glass Walls shielding requirement is based on PETA’s political views.”
Marten added that PETA was not excluded from the fair and was granted an exhibitor license. Also, PETA representatives are free to invite people into the PETA booth to view the video.
The video was shown at state fairs in Iowa and Colorado.