Remember when Oprah Winfrey was sued for saying some unflattering things about the health risks of beef, and hamburger in particular? A jury found that she had not defamed the cattleman who sued under Texas’s False Disparagement of Perishable Food Products Act, but it’s been pointed out that she’s been mum on the subject since then.
California has never passed an “ag gag” law like that of Texas or several other breadbasket states—despite more than one attempt, the most recent last year—but it’s been home to some very active animal rights groups. They’re no doubt watching closely a petition for certiorari filed in the U.S. Supreme Court Monday by a plaintiff, Sarahjane Blum, who fears she faces a stiff penalty as a “terrorist” for speaking out against animal cruelty.
As explained here at 5:47, the First Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, departing from longstanding doctrine, ruled that her speech was not directly enough chilled by the prospect of prosecution under the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act to give her standing to challenge it as an infringement of the First Amendment. That statute is a vivid example of how a single loaded word—terrorist—can be used to stamp speech and other above-ground civic activity as so menacing to public order and security that it must be hounded with the full weight of the law. Local angle: Plaintiff Blum was, according to Wikipedia, a co-producer of
the documentary “Delicacy of Despair: Behind the Closed Doors of the Foie Gras Industry” and created the website http://www.gourmetcruelty.com/, both of which expressly advocate for a ban on the production and consumption of Foie Gras. Through the film and website, supporting activists and protesters whose efforts, and expose-style “investigations” of companies such as Hudson Valley Foie Gras in New York and Sonoma Foie Gras in California (Hudson Valley is largely the subject of “Delicacy of Despair”), Shapiro played an important role in drumming up support for the anti Foie Gras movement that led to the California ban’s successful, though controversial, adoption.