Sonoma County Ballot Initiative Threatens Livestock Farming

By Jaclyn De Candio for Protect The Harvest

The aggressive animal extremist group Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) – known for their illegal “open rescue” tactics of trespassing to break into private agribusinesses and steal livestock or poultry – is in the spotlight again as they continue deceit aimed at a “Prohibition on Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations” (CAFOs) via a 2024 California county ballot initiative.

Similar to many animal extremist public policy efforts, this petition is a ballot initiative that, if enough signatures are collected, would show up on the Sonoma County November 2024 ballot. If successful, this would essentially disrupt all large, modern livestock farms in Sonoma County, the majority of which are family-owned and operated. Numerous dairies (over 700 cows) and all poultry farms in the country are currently at risk.

We reported on DxE activities several times in the past (links below). In addition to trespassing, breaking and entering, and stealing, the group also stages disruptive publicity stunts at restaurants, food processing facilities, street corners, sports and other venues, spreading disinformation about animal agriculture and other animal businesses. While there have been numerous DxE arrests, most of the group’s activists have escaped criminal justice system penalties by taking plea deals or persuading courts to dismiss charges.

A Misleading Petition

The Sonoma County petition is being promoted by The Coalition to End Factory Farming, an entity sponsored by the DxE San Francisco Bay Area chapter in concert with other extremist organizations. The coalition’s website is dedicated to promoting disinformation about livestock farming and ranching. Their call to action involves begging for donations and volunteers to collect petition signatures for the ballot initiative. According to their website, they are already more than halfway to their goal of collecting 30,000 signatures.

Here is a glance at the disinformation spewed on the site:

LIE #1: “These industrial facilities harm animals, exacerbate the drought and wildfires in California, pollute our air and water, and are incubators for disease. They are not in line with the values of Sonoma County residents.”

TRUTH #1: These facilities are subject to EPA regulations and guidelines to protect the environment and waterways. Additionally, they follow regulations to maintain animal welfare standards to prevent harm to animals. Farmers and ranchers are excellent stewards of natural resources and there is no upside for them to treat animals that provide their livelihood in any way other than with care, dignity and respect.

LIE #2: “CAFOs are bad for animals, the environment, workers, and public health. Despite bucolic imagery on their marketing, investigations into over a dozen CAFOs in Sonoma County have found rampant animal abuse, including animals left to slowly die without food or water. Emissions from industrial animal agricultural operations are a significant cause of climate change, with livestock contributing 14.5 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, which worsens the drought and wildfires in Sonoma County.”

TRUTH #2: CAFOs are simply large farms required to meet all appropriate regulations that result in safe, nutritious, abundant, affordable and accessible food for American families. The 14.5 percent reference is a global number that is not relevant to Sonoma County.

LIE #3: “There is overwhelming scientific evidence that nonhuman animals, including birds, are conscious, sentient beings that have emotions, personalities, and the ability to feel pain, fear, and stress. It is standard practice for animals in CAFOs to be mutilated without painkillers, confined indoors all or almost all of the time and prevented from expressing natural behaviors, denied access to veterinary care, and killed at a fraction of their natural lifespan.”

TRUTH #3: Farms routinely work with veterinarians to create protocols for sick or injured animals. Farmers work to ensure animals do not suffer as this causes stress on the animal, which affects the overall production and growth of the animal, as well as impacting the quality of animal products. Housing is designed to properly accommodate the animals, and farmers avoid overcrowding because of the negative effects it has on the productivity and welfare of the animals. The inconvenient truth is cult-like groups such as DxE want all humans to be vegans, and want no humans to own animals for any reasons.

DxE in Sonoma County

According to the local Argus Courier newspaper, the manager from Reichardt Duck Farm in Sonoma County revealed how a DxE protester caused self-harm and almost decapitated himself after “wrapping a bicycle U-lock around his neck and attaching it to farm processing equipment, which prompted his colleagues to frantically press random buttons while attempting to shut off the machinery.” This type of behavior results from the ideological extremism fueling groups such as DxE that support petitions promoting ballot initiatives like the one in Sonoma County, California.

If the petition was to be successful and the ballot initiative passes in November 2024, there would be a permanent ban on most animal husbandry practices in Sonoma County.

According to the anti-animal agriculture extremist coalition’s website, their proposed ordinance would require large livestock farms to “scale down” or close altogether. There is also mention of “retraining employment assistance” for current farm workers, but no explanation as to where that funding would come from. They also claim the ordinance would “only prohibit industrialized factory farms” and not “family farms.” This language fails to mention to the voter that those large farms are indeed owned and operated by families. In fact, current U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) data indicates 96 percent of all U.S. farms are family-owned!

A Pattern of Misbehavior

This latest “axis of evil-like” collaboration by DxE with other extremists is yet another in the long line of state-level efforts to disrupt animal agriculture. Like Initiative Petition 3 in Oregon and Initiative 16 in Colorado, petition gatherers are intentionally spreading disinformation to gain votes on ballot initiatives with the potential to adversely impact large, modern livestock and poultry farms and ranches by making false claims. Many voters may also be unaware of the illegal activities of extremist groups, including DxE, and the negative social, economic and environmental costs associated with eliminating large livestock and poultry farms in the face of food security challenges across America.

In the interest of maintaining A Free and Fed America™, it is imperative that we call out these radical attempts to undermine America’s food security. Not only does this type of misguided, ideologically driven attack on agriculture threaten the livelihood of farmers in Sonoma County, but it also sets the stage for similar attempts throughout California and other states.

Follow Protect The Harvest for updates as we spread awareness to farmers and consumers.

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