Wyoming Airport Hit With Free-Speech Lawsuit for Rejecting PETA Ad

For Immediate Release:
June 5, 2024

Moira Colley 202-483-7382

Rock Springs, Wyo.

Southwest Wyoming Regional Airport (SWRA) apparently had no advertising guidelines in June 2022 when PETA first inquired about running an ad encouraging travelers to choose vegan luggage. But rather than allowing the ad to run, the airport, as alleged, quickly scrambled to create a set of policy guidelines to attempt to justify rejecting it. PETA has now filed a lawsuit against SWRA in the U.S. District Court of Wyoming, alleging that the airport’s newfound “policy” is both unconstitutionally vague and inherently viewpoint-discriminatory, in violation of the First Amendment.

As alleged in PETA’s complaint, SWRA has historically promoted the sale of guns and shooting supplies as well as rodeos, hunting, and other industries that kill animals. But Airport Director Devon Brubaker remarked during a recorded board meeting that he thought the content of PETA’s ad was “less than appropriate for a family environment.” So after he had already decided to reject the ad, he allegedly took another airport’s advertising policy—which prohibits ads dealing with “social, political, religious, or rhetorical issues”—slapped SWRA’s name on it, then cited that brand-new “policy” as cause to reject PETA’s ad.

PETA’s lawsuit notes that the policy contains sweeping prohibitions that give SWRA unlimited discretion regarding how and when the policy is applied and asks simply that the airport be ordered to run the group’s ad on the same terms offered to other advertisers.

PETA anti-leather ad

Credit: PETA

“Southwest Wyoming Regional Airport seemingly attempted to create a phony paper trail to disguise its clear discriminatory bias, blocking PETA from asking consumers to choose vegan while promoting killing animals for sport,” says PETA Foundation Director of Litigation Asher Smith. “PETA looks forward to establishing that the airport’s rejection was unconstitutional and vindicating its First Amendment rights to advocate on behalf of animals, in this case, cows killed for their skin.”

Cows ranked as the largest “livestock commodity” raised in Wyoming in 2020, and because skin is one of the most economically important coproducts of the meat industry, buying leather directly contributes to the slaughter of animals.  Cows killed for leather may be skinned and dismembered while still conscious—having already endured castration, branding, or tail-docking without painkillers. Sustainable vegan leather made from a range of innovative materials is widely available.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of PETA with the assistance of local counsel Megan L. Hayes, an attorney based in Laramie, Wyoming.

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to wear or abuse in any other way”—points out thatEvery Animal Is Someone and offers free Empathy Kits for people who need a lesson in kindness. For more information, please visit PETA.org or follow the group on X, Facebook, or Instagram.

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