Over 100 supporters have shown up in Washington County, Utah, for day one of what animal advocates say could be a landmark case to establish the “Right to Rescue” animals in distress. Jury selection is expected to last all day with the trial expected to wrap up next week.
Animal rights activists Paul Darwin Picklesimerand Wayne Hsiung both face felony burglary and theft charges and 10+ years in prison. Hsiung, an attorney and former Northwestern Law visiting professor, will be representing himself at the trial, while Picklesimer has external representation.
The prosecution relates to filming and rescuing two dying piglets from the largest pig farm in the U.S. – owned by Smithfield Foods, a subsidiary of China’s WH Group.The pig rescue occurred during a Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) investigation into Smithfield’s usage of 2’ x 7’ gestation crates for mother pigs – despite a company promise to end the practice. Evidence from the investigation has been used in legal action against Smithfield for misleading consumers and inspired nationwide protests against one of Smithfield’s major buyers: Costco.
The activists say they documented dead and dying piglets in piles of feces and blood and claim the two piglets they removed were injured, sick, and starving. But the court has ruled that video of the rescue – and any evidence of the condition of the animals – is barred because it might arouse “horror” in the jury. The activists say this ruling violates their constitutional rights and is part of a broader pattern of undue corporate influence, including the mobilization of a six-car armada of FBI agents across state lines to search for the two rescued Smithfield piglets.
“State and federal authorities have consistently moved to prevent transparency in factory farms – even when presented by a defendant to a criminal trial,” said law professor and civil rights lawyer Justin Marceau, who led the successful effort to challenge Utah’s so-called “ag-gag” law. “Citizens, including members of a jury, have the right to know what’s happening in this system.”
The trial was moved to neighboring Washington County after activists faced threats of violence and intimidation from local authorities, prompting a civil rights lawsuit against Beaver County, Utah.
WAN applauds the heroic efforts of the activists to expose the brutality of animal agriculture and would like to remind everyone that the best way to help animals is to leave them off your plate.