They Rescued Pigs And Turkeys From Factory Farms — And Now Face Decades In Prison

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Above Photo: Youtube Screenshot/ The Intercept

IN THE FALL of 2017, Glenn Greenwald reported on a nationwide FBI manhunt for two pigs named Lily and Lizzie. The pigs had been removed from a factory farm in Utah by animal rights activists from a group called Direct Action Everywhere. From the perspective of the activists, the pigs were rescued. From the perspective of Smithfield Farms, the Chinese-owned multinational corporation that owns the factory farm, they were stolen.

Direct Action Everywhere, also known as DxE, engages in a practice called “open rescue.” Open rescue involves entering, without authorization, the facilities of animal-based industries, such as farms, slaughterhouses, and puppy mills, documenting the conditions within them, and removing as many animals as possible, usually from among the sick and injured. The activists don’t wear masks and make no effort to conceal their identities; they post the videos on social media for the world to see. By practically inviting prosecution, the activists aim to make a point: that the laws that regard these animals as mere property are wrong and that violating those laws is a moral imperative.

Since Greenwald’s story was published, prosecutors in Utah have charged six DxE activists with multiple felonies, both for the Smithfield action and for a separate open rescue of turkeys at a Utah factory farm owned by Norbest. In Utah, stealing property worth less than $1,500 is generally a misdemeanor. But lawmakers have carved out an exception specifically for the benefit of the animal agriculture industry. If the property in question is an animal “raised for commercial purposes,” then no matter how little economic value that animal may have, the crime is a felony. Because of this exception, DxE activists are potentially facing decades in prison.

Our new documentary tells the rest of the story to date. It’s an alarming example of the power of the animal agriculture industry, the confluence of interests between industry and law enforcement, and the appalling treatment of animals in industrial agricultural production.

  • Blaine

    Jury nullification. It is the only way to protect these folks.

  • Al Tinfoil

    Do not try to demonize the legal system, or the food business. These “activists” chose to indulge themselves in their pet delusions of what amounts to “justice” in America, and ignoring the rights of others and the reality of the food system and omnivore diet of most Americans. It was obvious to them that they were breaking laws when they indulged themselves, now they have to face the consequences. They set themselves up as having moral, ethical, and legal status above the law and above the American people.
    Consider the consequences if any person or group of persons could decide to do whatever they feel is proper, in spite of the law. That group might decide that all white people should be killed, or some other people should be killed because of their belief, skin color, or religion. Should a group of killers be excused because they saw their actions as morally justified, even though their actions were clearly illegal?
    The laws of the land have been agreed upon as a compromise among the various groups in society, as a reasonable way to protect the rights of everyone. No person should think that their personal belief excuses them from obeying the laws. If you do not like a law, you can campaign to change it. But until it is changed, it remains the law.

  • sue pankhurst

    The activists are defending the right of animals to live their terribly short lives without torture and with concern for the animals’ welfare.
    I and millions of others support the fight against cruelty
    The fact that you don’t says more about your own moral bankruptcy than the noble motives of the activists.
    America tries desperately to hide the appalling conditions animals are forced to live in.It won’t work. Animal lovers will NOT give up the fight against people responsible for the torture

  • il corvo

    If a corporation is legally now seen as a individual entity subject to the same rights and privileges as a human person, where does the law put the rights and privileges of innocent animals? Laws are made to protect the wealth of the ruling class and keep the poor and our fellow creatures in cages.

  • Steven Berge

    Corporations have pushed their advantage way too far. We have a law against cruel and unusual punishment, but the constitution is being shredded in the name of corporate profits. If someone stole your cat, you think any court would put them in jail for decades? Maybe if you had spread millions of dollars around the government. Corporations have more rights than living breathing humans now, because only they can aggregate capital in vast quantities, plus they have all the rights that we have too. I don’t mean to promote theft, but when the corporations do it (bank created economic crisis where they steal millions of homes or drugs price hikes of one or two thousand percent overnight, etc,) they are subject to no more than slaps on the hand. I’ll believe a corporation is a person when I see one in jail!

  • mwildfire

    You use the wrong analogy here. Better is those wicked criminals like Harriet Tubman who stole property from their owners. If Harriet Tubman thought slavery was wrong, she should have campaigned against it, rather than breaking the law by escaping and helping others escape. Right? Not that a slave would have had means to campaign against slavery.
    Aside from the moral ramifications this example should clarify, there is another problem with your logic–the assumption that laws are made by majority input. Why would these people be charged with felonies, potentially spend more time in prison for taking a few sick animals out of their confinement than murderers and rapists get? Answer: because laws are made by legislatures, and the top concern of legislatures is responding to lobbyists who clarify what the legislators’ are expected to produce in return for campaign donations. The voters are completely irrelevant–as was actually statistically proven by the Gilen and Page study. It’s true that most Americans eat meat–that doesn’t mean they’re okay with the horrific, cruel conditions of CAFOs–or that they know about these conditions. Keeping it that way is important to avoid a groundswell of public outrage such as has moved California to ban the worst kinds of animal abuse. Thus, filming within these dens of depravity has also been made a terrible crime by obedient legislatures.

  • Nylene13

    When the itself law is corrupt, there is no law. To make it illegal to film crimes, is a law that should not exist. You are defending animal abuse, and the abuse of people who eat such sick and abused animals unknowingly.

  • Al Tinfoil

    So, who gets to decide that a law is unjust, and that it can be ignored? You think that animal rights activists get to do so. But I have pointed out that your simplistic analysis will lead to chaos.

    Consider a farmer who decides that the law against killing trespassers on sight is unjust, and decides to shoot to kill any trespasser – that farmer, by your reasoning, will be perfectly entitled to shoot any animal rights activist who comes onto his farm, and feed the dead activist to his pigs.

    I expect you think killing activists and feeding them to pigs is not a just and moral practice, but by your analysis, each individual is justified in determining what laws are “unjust” and can therefore be ignored.

    By your “logic”, the farmer is entitled to ignore the laws against shooting to kill trespassers, just as you feel you are entitled to ignore laws against trespassing and interfering in farm operations.

    Civilizations have developed ways to peacefully settle disputes over moral and ethical standards of conduct, and democracies have set up constitutions, courts, and popular elections to do so. When these mechanisms fail or are ignored, bloodshed tends to break out.

  • Jon

    Hey Al, are you at all familiar with the concept of compassion? Seems not from what you wrote.

  • Dannow

    “When these mechanisms fail or are ignored” These mechanisms are failing and this can no longer be ignored.

  • disqus_A2rvn6wQG3 5+

  • potshot

    Touching and powerful film.

  • potshot

    What a crock. Quite apparent your heartlessness as to the obvious vicious cruelty of animal agriculture. It’s absurd for you to draw parallels between saving the lives of sentient beings with taking human lives out of racist or whatever motivations. The laws of the land haven’t been agreed upon as a compromise. They’ve been bought by the rich for the rich. ALEC, which this report touches upon is a prime example. This Koch brothers funded monstrosity actually writes laws it hands to the representatives whose seats they buy to submit in legislatures around the country.

  • chetdude

    What the hell makes you think USAmerica is a democracy? Or even Civilized?

    “who gets to decide that a law is unjust”

    We do. These particular “laws” you’re defending were bought and paid for by the worst elements of society (corporations and those who own them) and often have to be opposed by representatives of We the People who represent the best…

    And your “logic” demonstrates the attempted use of a ridiculous strawman to deflect logical, rational consideration of the subject.

  • Al Tinfoil

    Activists can continue their emotional self-indulgence all they want, and act with the very best of intentions, but the fact remains that the law applies to them and their actions even though they decide that the law is “unjust” or “corrupt”.

    Choosing to act in defiance of the laws (and in contravention of the rights of others) carries with it the risk of arrest, prosecution, and fine or imprisonment. Also, there is the risk lawsuits from those whose rights or property are interfered with.

    America’s prisons are full of people who acted in defiance of the laws.

    As the old saying goes “You do the crime, you do the time.”

    If you believe that animals are being treated improperly, you can lay a complaint with local animal-welfare authorities, police, or government. You can legally hold a press conference and voice your concerns, but beware of laws against libel and slander. You can legally lobby your local elected representatives to take action. All of these can be done legally. What cannot be done legally is actions that defy the law or interfere with the rights of others to conduct their businesses in accordance with the laws.

  • chetdude

    Or FORCE changes in the law…

  • chetdude

    USAmerica’s Gulag of prisons and jails are FULL of political prisoners and innocent people…

  • kevinzeese

    I don’t know where Al Tinfoil is coming from. He seems either sadly misinformed or a troll sent here to disrupt people’s thinking. His comments are strange and lack factual basis.