UPDATE: Friday, September 7, 2012
The weather caused problems for many at the Kansas State Fair's first day, including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the group's controversial display that recently triggered a court case over freedom of speech.
PETA Senior Campaigner Virginia Fort says the group was forced to hold off on airing their animal rights advocacy video "Glass Walls" in their booth because of the threat of severe weather and a high wind advisory. The group decided to go ahead with their plans to have a booth at the state fair after a judge ruled they could not display the video outside the booth for all to see. Instead, fairgoers must enter the booth to see the video.
"PETA simply wanted to show what happens behind the scenes at slaughterhouses. If slaughterhouses had glass walls everyone would be a vegetarian," said Fort.
Kansas State Fair General Manager Denny Stoecklein says the fair has always been a very pro-agricultural event.
"Obviously, they probably have a right to be here," said Stoecklein.
Dairy farmer Samantha Newhouse don't take issue with PEAT being at the fair, regardless of whether their message supports the dairy business.
"I think they have a poor reputation and nobody pays a lot of attention to them," said Newhouse.
Farmer Rob Leach believes PETA's intentions are good but he doesn't think the group actually knows how well farmers take care of their animals.
"Anybody that has livestock cares more about animal welfare than anybody," said Leach.
Though the video will remain boxed up for now because of the weather, PETA still has nine more days of fair and they promise it will soon be available for public viewing.
UPDATE: Tuesday, September 4, 2012
A federal judge has sided with the Kansas State Fair in a free speech challenge filed by an animal-rights group.
U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten on Tuesday ruled the fair is a so-called "limited public forum." He said fair officials acted reasonably in requiring People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals to shield people walking by its booth from easily seeing images depicting animal slaughter.
Fair officials say PETA is welcome to have a booth at the fair, but it comes with conditions. The organization cannot run its video "Glass Walls" outside the booth where everyone can see but they can invite people into their booth to view the video. PETA general council Jeff Kerr says the organization isn't happy with that stipulation.
"The Kansas State Fair requiring us to hide our video from fairgoers is like the Wizard of Oz telling Dorothy she can't look behind the curtain," said Kerr.
Fair organizers say they're happy with the judge's ruling and eager to move forward with preparations for the fair's opening.
"We're certainly pleased with the court's ruling. We're pleased that the state had an opportunity to present its case and now we're moving forward, said Kansas State Fair General Manager Denny Stoecklein. "The fair starts on Friday. So we're going to make the final arrangements for that and get this party going."
PETA sued the state, the Kansas Fair Board and the fair's general manager, arguing the restrictions violate its free speech rights.
The judge also denied a motion by the state to dismiss PETA's lawsuit. PETA is now considering whether to appeal this ruling to the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver and whether to continue with plans to have a fair booth under the conditions imposed by the court.
Tuesday, September 04, 2012
With the opening of the Kansas State Fair just days away, a federal court is taking up a free-speech case against the fair by an animal-rights group.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is seeking an order to block the fair from forcing it to shield people walking by its booth from easily seeing videos or photos depicting animal slaughter.
U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten scheduled arguments Tuesday in Wichita.
PETA sued the state, the Kansas Fair Board and the fair's general manager arguing the restrictions violate its free speech rights.
The state is being defended by the office of Attorney General Derek Schmidt, which contends the limits are lawful.
The fair opens Friday in Hutchinson.