Undercover Cameras OK, Judge Rules

By Justin Rood

Apr 13, 2007 11:31am

A federal judge dismissed a chinchilla ranch’s lawsuit against an animal rights group, saying the activists have a right to conduct undercover investigations that include videotaping. Michigan chinchilla ranchers Robin and Julie Ouderkirk filed suit in late 2004 against People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), charging the group had invaded their privacy, mischaracterized them and caused them emotional distress by pretending to be interested buyers for the Ouderkirk’s ranch in order to come onto the property and videotape their operations. Yesterday, U.S. District Court Judge David M. Lawson dismissed the suit. "Undercover investigations are one of the main ways our criminal justice system operates," Lawson wrote in his decision, noting that investigative television shows "often conduct undercover investigations to reveal improper, unethical, or criminal behavior." Watch the Undercover Video. Lawson also found that PETA’s video, "Nightmare on Chinchilla Farm," which featured the Ouderkirks’ operation, was a "truthful publication of and [featured] accurate representations of" the couple’s activities." "We were disappointed," Robin Ouderkirk told ABC News Thursday night.  With their suit, the couple sought to force PETA to stop showing their video and pay them unspecified monetary damages and attorney fees.  Now, "our whole outlook on this thing is that it will go away and die and be over." Click Here for Full Blotter Coverage. Asked how it felt to be the subject of an undercover investigation, Ouderkirk responded, "How would you feel if I showed up at your place of business…and out-and-out lied to you, and published said story?  They used me as their poster child." Of the experience being the subject of an undercover investigation, Ouderkirk said, "I would avoid it, if possible." PETA has led a campaign against chinchilla farmers who they believe use inhumane and unsafe practices, including electrocuting the tiny animals and snapping their necks. "Nightmare on Chinchilla Farm" featured footage of the Ouderkirks doing both.

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