Utah Jury Acquits Animal Extremists of Felony Charges

DxE Extremists Acquitted By Jury for Stealing Smithfield Piglets

By Jaclyn Krymowski for Protect The Harvest

Two members – Wayne Hsiung and Paul Picklesime – of the problematic animal extremist group Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) were acquitted by a jury in Utah after a weeklong, highly publicized trial. They were acquitted despite the fact that they trespassed onto Circle Four Farm in Milford, Utah, and stole a pair of piglets. This unfortunate win will likely embolden the current membership and like-minded “direct action” extremist groups (such as the Animal Liberation Front) to continue their illegal activities. Even in the full view of the public eye, animal extremists are getting away with crimes under the guise of “open rescue.”

Dangerous Precedent

Not only did Hsiung and Picklesime get away with the robbery, but this ruling sets a very dangerous precedent. Under the facade of “open rescue,” these groups strive to be above the law and sway public opinion in their favor by blatant deception. The ruling sends a message to other animal extremists that it is okay to do the same even though trespassing and theft are crimes in every sense of the word.

When the trial was finished, extremists even went so far as to light celebratory smoke bombs. It was a fitting display in line with the wanton disrespect activists have towards others’ property and they do not care if they cause destruction or disruption.

Long History of Extremist Activities

This is hardly the first crime DxE members, led by Hsiung, have committed crimes to spread their agenda and extremist beliefs. Besides trespassing and obstructing business, they’ve also stolen goats, chickens, and turkeys. The group also works to elect some of its leaders to public offices.

DxE has a long, inglorious history of inciting illegal activity including theft and harassment targeting farms, laboratories, stores, and other facilities in the animal industries. Hsiung is the co-founder and leader of the organization and has faced numerous brushes with the law for inciting and perpetrating extremist activities. Despite being a lawyer himself, Hsiung is a strong believer that he and his fellow animal liberation extremists are justified in the robbery, harassment, trespassing, and destruction they routinely participate in.

The News Media is Complicit in Perpetuating Disinformation

The mainstream media has jumped on the bandwagon to support extremist agendas without due diligence. Unfortunately, there are many articles commending and praising these individuals for their actions while spreading false information.

Very rarely are agriculturists allowed to give their side of a story when it comes to narratives pushed by extremists, which lean heavily on human emotions and not science-backed animal welfare facts. We’ve previously debunked some of these other biased attacks.

There are also many innocent seeming platforms and media outlets that propagate animal rights content or have direct ties. How prominent is it? You can read how much it’s increased in our previous article.

Some media outlets are even touting these extremists as a pair of “heroes” who saved two sick and underweight piglets.

The DxE members admitted in a St. George News article that they were restricted from distributing flyers and protesting outside Circle Four Farms (a Smithfield Foods-owned farm). Despite this and the complaints from county officials and residents alike who cited DxE’s role in the recent loss of jobs when Smithfield laid off 250 employees in the county, fellow extremists showed their support for the activity.

Several articles discuss Smithfield Foods as a whole, essentially saying this single farm makes up the company. In reality, this targeted farm is one of many that are owned and operated by the company. However, these articles don’t investigate the farm’s side and what protocols are in place for sick animals. There is no inclusion of the farm’s veterinary staff and their assessment either.

Misrepresentation of the Law

The media has highlighted what animal extremists have termed “ag-gag” laws. They are using the fact that these laws are in place as an implication that agriculture has something to hide. The laws animal extremists claim are “gagging them” criminalize gaining employment for the sole purpose of taking undercover videos. This is illegal in many states because the animal extremist groups then manipulate the videos and display staged and highly edited clips in order to mislead the public about how animals are cared for in large modern farms.

In reality, there is more transparency than ever about large modern farms thanks to educational programs and farmers who are active on social media.

Article in The Intercept is Especially Egregious

An Intercept article included statements from a veterinarian who stated, “that ‘Lizzie’s’ mother had a condition called hypogalactia, which meant she wasn’t producing enough milk” and that “both piglets had a vanishingly small chance of surviving at Smithfield.”

To an agriculturally illiterate public, many will see a professional’s opinion and conclude this is a factual assessment. But in this case, the veterinarian worked at the sanctuary that supposedly nursed the piglets back to health. The sanctuary’s veterinary staff did not visually or physically examine the sow. This such individual only received second-hand information and did not actually examine the sow. It is fully unprofessional for a biased veterinarian who is ideologically involved with the group to make claims about the sow’s condition without an actual physical examination.

This same article also made accusations that animals are “suffering on factory farms, vivisection labs, and other places where they’re exploited for profit.” They imply that modern farming practices developed by researchers and livestock veterinarians are bad and that animals are mistreated and “exploited” only for money.

The Intercept also stated that the two DxE members found visibly ill and injured piglets. However, the pictures of the piglets are quite poor and don’t allow for a good assessment – or context – of their actual body condition. This article also states that “throwing away sick and dead animals is a cost of doing business.” Such biased editorializing works to deem producers as inherently immoral, painting all farmers as not caring for the animals they are raising. In reality, farmers want to see healthy animals if they are going to be successful in business.

Article in the New York Times is No Better

The New York Times published its own article on the trial of the acquitted DxE members. Author Andrew Jacobs has a history of penning articles that negatively question modern animal farming with headlines such as Denmark Raises Antibiotic-Free Pigs, Why Can’t the U.S.?, and Is Dairy Farming Cruel to Cows?

Smithfield did provide statements to Jacobs ensuring that “We raise pigs to feed people with wholesome, nutritious, and affordable protein. Any deviation from our high standards for animal care is counterproductive to this mission and would never be tolerated.”

However, this was followed by comments from animal extremist Professor Justin Marceau:

“Prosecutors would have you believe this case is about burglary, but in reality, it’s a case about whether people can rescue animals in dire conditions that are now commonplace in our food system. I can’t think of a more significant animal law case in recent history.”

The Times also briefly mentions a statement about the violators breaking biosecurity measures. Biosecurity is a huge concern on hog farms to prevent exposure to diseases where animals can become sick and pose a major threat to food safety.

Stay Aware

We previously wrote an article on why the media assists with pushing such propaganda despite the legal implications. DxE is especially well known to misrepresent information and use the media as its outlet. We’ve covered how they used the media outlets toui push staged and out-of-context images.

Unfortunately, the media often willingly joins their efforts by conveying their message without doing any fact-checking or obtaining from true subject matter experts.

Food Security is At Risk When Animal Extremists Get Away with Breaking the Law

We must stand united and insist on the enforcement of laws that protect our food systems and agribusinesses. Food security is at risk when animal extremists get away with breaking the law. When farmers and ranchers cannot afford to produce food because of trespassing and theft, it means there will be less food available at the grocery store to feed families.

We need to keep aware of extremist activities, advocate for agriculture, and be a voice representing agriculture to our lawmakers and politicians, insisting that these criminals be held accountable for their actions.

Follow Protect The Harvest for more updates on extremist activities and ways you can be involved in safeguarding animal agriculture.


Utah News Articles HERE and HERE

Intercept Article HERE

New York Times Article HERE

Information about DxE and other Animal Extremist Groups HERE and HERE

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