Discover more from The Simple Heart
Gagging animal rights activists in North Carolina
The prosecution sought, and the judge granted, a key motion that will deny a jury evidence of animal cruelty
NOTE: I’m writing every day in memory of Lisa, who died on October 13. Not all of these posts will be sent out by email, and some I may write from jail/prison, as I go to trial on November 29. So if you want to follow this journey, visit the blog every day. I’ll try to post by 10 am each day, but occasionally, I’m sure a post will be late.
UPDATE: This was written on Tuesday, and there have been updates since then, mostly good. You’ll hear more soon, but in the spirit of blogging every day, for Lisa, I’m posing this that I wrote yesterday now.
North Carolina is renowned for its deep support for animal agriculture. The state passed the broadest “ag gag” law in the nation, before the law was stuck down by a federal court. It effectively immunized factory farms from environmental lawsuits. And it is home to the single largest slaughterhouse in the nation, Smithfield’s massive plant in Tar Heel, North Carolina.
So perhaps it is no surprise that, in a criminal case involving an animal who would have been slaughtered for food, the court has ruled that gagging evidence of animal cruelty is appropriate, even when that evidence is necessary to an individual’s criminal defense.
That’s exactly what happened yesterday in court. I obtained a copy of the motion yesterday morning to prohibit witnesses (including me) from testifying as to three categories of evidence: the care necessary to protect the life and health of the animal we rescued; the costs of any veterinary care that would have been required; and the relevant standard practices and training within the veterinary and rescue communities in a case involving a goat such as the one we found at the ranch. The argument was a confused one, with both sides (including me, representing myself) talking at cross purposes. This was partly because the motion was so hastily argued.
But it was also partly because of the confused state of the law. At one point during the argument, the prosecution stated that one does not have “to save the property’s life.” The very notion of saving the life of property is facially absurd. And yet that is the situation our legal system has left us in. We aim to challenge that with this trial.
It’s not clear how much progress we will make. The judge is a friendly man, but not one who likes any “disruption” to courtroom traditions. Even small things, such as the right for media to record audio in court, have been denied on the grounds that they are a departure from how things are normally done in this court.
This is frustrating because, often, “how things are normally done” is often not just deeply wrong, but legally incorrect. But the point of going to trial is to try to point out those flaws. Yesterday was a tough day, but we’ll continue to do that for the rest of this week.