The campaign to promote veganism by exposing the destructive reality of the animal agriculture industry.

THE ‘RIGHT TO RESCUE’: In historic case, animal rights activists acquitted for rescuing dying piglets from factory farm

0

DxE's Wayne Hsiung and Paul Picklesimer aimed to persuade a jury of their peers that it makes no sense to imprison people for saving suffering animals, thereby opening the door to a legal 'right to rescue'.

MARINA BOLOTNIKOVA: In a historic trial over the 2017 removal of two sick and dying piglets from Utah’s Smithfield Foods factory farm, two animal rights activists were acquitted by a jury Saturday night on burglary and theft charges, which could have sent them to prison for five-and-a-half years each. The verdict is the culmination of a more than five-year pursuit that multiple agencies, including the FBI and the Utah attorney general’s office, began after the activists published undercover footage revealing gruesome conditions at Smithfield, the nation’s largest pork producer…

The verdict is the first jury acquittal for DxE, which Hsiung co-founded in 2013. Going into the trial, Hsiung and Picklesimer both faced two counts of felony burglary, which each carry up to five years in prison, and one count of misdemeanor theft, which carries up to six months. (One of the burglary charges was dismissed by the judge due to a lack of evidence)…

Wayne Hsiung and Paul Picklesimer, members of the animal rights group Direct Action Everywhere, or DxE, removed two sick, severely underweight piglets from Smithfield in March 2017. They named the pigs Lily and Lizzie, brought them to receive veterinary care, and took them to a sanctuary for rescued farm animals in Colorado. Later that year, as The Intercept reported, the FBI chased the piglets across state lines and raided the sanctuary where they were living, bringing with them veterinarians who sliced off a piece of Lizzie’s ear to perform a DNA test and confirm that she was the property of Smithfield Foods. (The animals were not removed from the sanctuary, and still live there to this day)…

The long-awaited trial was a test case for DxE’s theory of change, which relies on a tactic they call “open rescue.” The group openly removes animals suffering on factory farms, vivisection labs, and other places where they’re exploited for profit, inviting confrontation with the legal system. Hsiung and Picklesimer aimed to persuade a jury of their peers that it makes no sense to imprison people for saving suffering animals, thereby opening the door to a legal “right to rescue.”

“Against the advice of my co-counsel and pretty much all the attorneys I’ve talked to, I’m going to tell you exactly what we did on the night in question because I believe in the people of this country and the people of Utah to make the right choice,” said Hsiung, an attorney who represented himself, in his opening statement to the jury. Animal rescue “is not the worst part of us as human beings. It’s the best of us.”

“Today is a good day for somebody in particular, and that’s Lily and Lizzie, two pigs who are living their best lives in the sunshine right now, who are priceless,” Picklesimer said after the verdict. “They got the right to be rescued today. There are billions of animals who don’t have that right yet, and we’re going to keep working for them”…

Hsiung and Picklesimer, along with three other activists who have since pleaded out of the case, entered Circle Four Farms, Smithfield’s factory farm complex in Beaver County, Utah, in 2017 to investigate the company’s pledge to stop using gestation crates, which confine pregnant pigs in cages too small to let them turn around.

When the activists arrived at the massive facility, they found it filled with rows of pregnant pigs caged in the crates the company had sworn off. They also entered a facility packed with farrowing crates — similar to gestation crates, but with just enough additional room to fit nursing piglets — where female pigs are moved when they’re ready to give birth. The group found dead and rotting piglets inside the facility, as well as visibly ill and injured ones like Lily and Lizzie…

A key part of the defense’s case was that the piglets were on the verge of death when Hsiung and Picklesimer took them, and Smithfield routinely throws sick or dead animals away. Had the animals remained in the company’s possession, the defense argued, they would have been worthless…

Activists who traveled to St. George, Utah, to watch the trial were jubilant over the decision, describing it as a turning point for the animal rights movement. “They just let a guy who walked into a factory farm and took two piglets out without the consent of Smithfield walk out of the courtroom free,” Hsiung told reporters outside the courthouse. “If it can happen in southern Utah, it can happen anywhere”. SOURCE…

RELATED VIDEOS: