By Kevin Murphy
KANSAS CITY, Kansas (Reuters) - Organizers of the Kansas State Fair can restrict the display of an animal rights group's video that shows animal slaughter at its annual agricultural event, a federal judge ruled on Tuesday.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals asked the court to prohibit the fair from putting limits on the video. U.S. District Court Judge J. Thomas Marten denied their request.
The ACLU, which represented PETA, argued the fair was violating federal free speech protections. The Kansas state government sided with the fair in the dispute.
PETA will be allowed to show the film at its booth at the fair starting on Friday in Hutchinson, Kansas, but the film must be displayed out of public view.
"The Kansas State Fair requiring us to hide our video is like the Wizard of Oz telling Dorothy she can't look behind the curtain," PETA's general counsel Jeff Kerr said, referring to the classic film "The Wizard of Oz," which was set in Kansas.
The film, which PETA said was shown at fairs in Iowa and Colorado this year, is narrated by singer Paul McCartney. It shows what PETA calls abuse during the slaughter process of cattle, pigs, chickens, turkeys and other animals.
Fair officials informed PETA that it could only show the 13-minute film, called "Glass Walls," out of public view. In an email to PETA, fair officials said the video should be visible only to people who make "a conscious choice" to see it.
"We are encouraged by the decision of the court," Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt said in a statement. "This ruling preserves the family friendly, pro-agriculture mission of the state fair."
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 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 like cattle feed yards and pig and chicken facilities to expose alleged cruelty to animals.
Some Midwestern states like Iowa have responded by passing laws making it a crime to infiltrate such facilities.
Kerr said PETA is considering taking the suit to the U.S. Court of Appeals.
(Editing by Greg McCune and Stacey Joyce)