By Kevin Murphy
KANSAS CITY, Kansas (Reuters) - A national animal rights group filed a federal lawsuit on Monday to keep the Kansas State Fair from putting limits on the showing of a video depicting livestock slaughter.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals want the video, narrated by Paul McCartney, to be shown at its fair booth next month in Hutchinson, Kansas. But PETA said fair officials stated in an e-mail that the video must not be visible to the public passing by.
The lawsuit, filed for PETA by the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas and Western Missouri, said restrictions on the video amount to a violation of free speech.
PETA is asking a judge to order the state fair to allow the video to be shown and to declare the fair a "public forum" where free speech is protected.
Denny Stoecklein, general manager of the fair, did not return calls for comment.
The dispute is the latest in an escalating battle between animal rights advocates and U.S. agricultural interests. PETA and the Humane Society have infiltrated large-animal operations such as cattle feed yards and pig and chicken facilities to expose alleged cruelty to animals.
Some Midwest states such as Iowa have responded by passing laws making it a crime to infiltrate such facilities.
The 13-minute film called "Glass Walls" shows cattle, pigs, turkeys, chickens and other animals being subjected to what PETA considers harsh and abusive handling before and during slaughter. Cattle, for instance, are shown being kicked, dragged and strangled.
"We are just trying to educate the public about the horrors of factory farming," said Jeff Kerr, PETA general counsel. "People have a right to know what goes on in these places. But the fair doesn't want us to interfere with their pro-agriculture festivities."
PETA said fair officials stipulated that any video showing graphic images of animal slaughter, animal harvest, hide removal, decapitation, dismemberment or butchering can be seen only by fair visitors who make "a conscious choice" to view it.
In Iowa, fair officials objected to the video because it included a profanity. PETA agreed to delete the word from subtitles in the video, but it stayed in the audio, Kerr said. The only other state fair where PETA showed the video this year was in Colorado, where it did so without restrictions, he said.
The Kansas State Fair, celebrating its 100th anniversary, runs September 7 to 16.
(Editing by Greg McCune and Ciro Scotti)
(Editing by Greg McCune)