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CRIME OF COMPASSION: Our ‘legal system’ protects those hurting animals and punishes those trying to save them

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Right now, there are sick and injured animals who are collapsed on the shed floors of factory farms, slowly dying. They could get medical care that would save their lives, but the factory owners and the authorities won’t intervene, and the animal caregivers who want to help them are threatened with years in prison.

CASSIE KING: In 2018, DxE received whistleblower footage from Sunrise Farms, a massive egg-laying operation in Petaluma that — according to court testimony by co-owner Mike Weber — supplies to Whole Foods, Costco, Safeway, Sam’s Club, Walmart, Trader Joe’s and more. The footage showed dead and rotting corpses throughout the facility, birds with sores on their reproductive organs, bloody eggs and a bird who was stuck in the wire of her cage.

California has some of the strongest animal cruelty laws on the books, including criminalizing any “unnecessary cruelty” inflicted on animals. Moreover, unlike some states, California doesn’t have an animal husbandry exemption to its animal cruelty laws, so the laws apply to animals at farms, slaughterhouses and hatcheries.

However, when DxE sent this footage to various county and state authorities in March and April of 2018, none took action. So hundreds of us gathered at the site of the abuse to help the animals ourselves. The day of the demonstration, dozens of sick chickens were found, removed and transported to receive veterinary care. I was one of 40 people arrested and taken to jail.

But if they thought that would stop open rescues, they were wrong. In 2019, activists entered Reichardt Duck Farm in Petaluma where more undercover footage had shown severely injured birds, and birds stuck on their backs unable to right themselves. Rescuers took 32 ducklings to receive critical veterinary care. Both of these actions took place after months spent reporting the cruelty to county and state officials.

And reports have continued, including new evidence of major public health threats at Perdue’s Petaluma Poultry. On June 13, peaceful activists rescued sick chickens from inside the Petaluma Poultry slaughterhouse and called on the authorities to act.

I am grateful that this felony prosecution hasn’t deterred others from taking direct action. Having these charges looming over me for the past four years has been tiring. I’ve made dozens of trips to the Sonoma courthouse for mostly ministerial appearances. My mom asks me for updates about the case every time we talk, and there is nothing I can say to reassure her.

Most frustrating of all is knowing that the government is wasting resources prosecuting me and my friends, instead of stopping systemic animal cruelty and fixing the gaping lack of enforcement of animal cruelty laws. The case feels like one long stalling tactic, but finally, trial has been scheduled.

I am eager for my (and the animals’) day in court to defend the right to rescue anyone who is being abused, regardless of their species. Enshrining this right could open the door to a new view of animals under the law — as legal persons, rather than “property.”

In previous open rescue cases, judges have told us they don’t want their court being turned into a “three-ring circus” or a “referendum on the swine industry.” They have restricted media and public access to the courtroom, but these trials capture attention despite their efforts. My priority isn’t staying out of jail; it is bringing attention to rampant criminal animal cruelty so that the victims get help.

Right now, there are sick and injured animals who are collapsed on the shed floors of factory farms in Sonoma County, slowly dying. They could get medical care that would save their lives, but the factory owners won’t pay for it, the authorities won’t intervene, and the animal caregivers who want to help them are threatened with years in prison. This system is powerful. But cracks are starting to form…

In the past year, DxE activists have been acquitted in two separate trials for rescuing animals. Activists and lawyers are hailing these legal victories as key steps to establish the “right to rescue” animals in distress, and to change the legal status of animals more broadly. We’re hopeful this trial will make it three wins in a row. Anyone who wants to support can follow the trial and DxE’s other rescue cases at RightToRescue.com. The City Council of Sebastopol, a city in Sonoma County, recently passed a historic resolution to support the right to rescue and condemn the prosecution of me and my co-defendants…

Standing trial is scary. The prospect of being put in a cage is not something I ever thought I’d have to face when I was a young girl in Catholic school. But I didn’t know then how unjust our legal system is and how our food system too relies on the imprisonment of those who are different. When I feel afraid, I just think back to that mother pig in the Smithfield factory farm. And I know I have to be strong. I know what is right, and what is wrong. She made it very clear for me. SOURCE…

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