Free-Speech Lawsuit Over Shore Transit’s PETA Ad Rejection to Proceed

For Immediate Release:
January 19, 2022

Contact:
Brooke Rossi 202-483-7382

Salisbury, Md. – On Tuesday, the United States District Court for the District of Maryland rejected a motion to dismiss PETA’s lawsuit challenging the Tri-County Council for the Lower Eastern Shore of Maryland and one of its divisions, Shore Transit, over their refusal to run PETA’s ads on their buses, allowing the lawsuit to move forward.

In its refusal to run PETA’s ads, Shore Transit stated that the ads—which read, “No One Needs to Kill to Eat,” and call for the closure of slaughterhouses—were “too offensive for [its] market and political in nature.” PETA’s lawsuit argues that the policy prohibiting “political,” “offensive,” or “controversial” ads—as well as the Tri-County Council and Shore Transit’s refusal to run PETA’s ads under that policy—violates PETA’s rights under the First and 14th amendments, as the policy is unconstitutionally vague, inherently discriminatory, and at the discretion of government officials. The court has agreed that PETA’s lawsuit states a valid claim, noting that “[w]hile the Court is certainly sympathetic that Defendants may have an interest in limiting graphic or gory imagery on its buses, the manner in which Defendants allegedly have done so appears to be neither viewpoint neutral nor reasonable.”

“Shore Transit’s unconstitutional ad policy lets officials decide what’s too ‘offensive’ for the public to see, even if it’s just a simple appeal to go vegan,” says PETA Foundation Director of Litigation Asher Smith. “This policy must be struck down in the name of free speech, and PETA must be allowed to advocate for animals through its ads on Shore Transit.”

PETA is represented by Brian Hauss with the American Civil Liberties Union’s Speech, Privacy, & Technology Project and Robin Cockey of Cockey, Brennan & Maloney, P.C.

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to eat”—opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. For more information, please visit PETA.org or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

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 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind