Kansas State Fair And PETA Clash Over Booth Restriction

By: Chris Frank/Associated Press Email
By: Chris Frank/Associated Press Email

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Thursday, August 16, 2012

The group, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, is known for some pretty “in your face” tactics. And that’s exactly what PETA has planned for its Kansas State Fair exhibit. So, fair officials are restricting how the group gets its message across.

The folks who run the Kansas State Fair in Hutchinson say PETA is welcome to come here and set up a booth at the fair as long as they abide by the same rules that other vendors have to. But PETA says that's violating their first amendment, free speech rights.

"We wouldn't be peddling cotton candy and corn dogs but just food for thought,” says PETA Spokeswoman Laura Wilson.

The “food for thought” she refers to would be a vegetarian message and unflattering to agriculture.

She also says, "So they're basically trying to block PETA from showing visitors what the agriculture industry hides which is animals kept on factory farms are routinely kept in cramped filthy cages and sheds. They are routinely beaten and kicked by workers. But we do respect first amendment opportunities for anyone."

State Fair General Manager Denny Stoecklein doesn’t recall PETA ever having a booth at the fair. PETA has applied, he says, but it’s not determined if PETA will be there.

"When someone contracts for an exhibit space it specifies the location of that space and the parameters of that space. Any exhibitor here is confined to doing their promotion and their work from that space and not from other locations on the fairgrounds," says Stoecklein.

When PETA exhibits, you might say they can be exhibitionists. PETA’s message is not pro-agriculture, and Stoecklein says the fair is.

"It's a pro-agriculture state. The state fair is very pro-ag," he says.

The Kansas State Fair is about agriculture but it's also about entertainment and should PETA decide to come here and set up a booth well it could be one more piece of street theatre.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The activist group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is objecting to conditions imposed by Kansas State Fair officials on its planned exhibit.

PETA said Wednesday the restrictions amount to unconstitutional censorship of its message.

The fair takes place Sept. 7-16 in Hutchinson.

Fair officials say any videos or pictures of animals being decapitated, dismembered or butchered must not be readily visible outside PETA's booth, so that fairgoers will have to make a conscious choice to view the material.

PETA calls the condition a content-based restraint on its free speech. It contends that since the fair is a public forum, restrictions based on viewpoint are prohibited.

A fair official referred questions Wednesday to general manager Denny Stoecklein, who did not immediately return a message.

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