Last week, FBI agents in bulletproof vests descended on two shelters for abandoned farm animals -- Ching Farm Rescue in Herriman, Utah and Luvin Arms in Erie, Colorado -- with search warrants, demanding DNA samples for piglets the agents said were named “Lucy” and “Ethel.” Activists with the animal rights network Direct Action Everywhere (DxE), who recently rescued two dying piglets from a Smithfield farm in Utah in an investigation featured in The New York Times, say the FBI’s raids are intended to intimidate activists who are engaged in rescue and whistleblowing efforts.

“Piglets were rotting to death in piles of their own mother’s feces at Smithfield,” DxE co-founder and former Northwestern law professor Wayne Hsiung said. “Rescuing them was an act of compassion, not a crime. But Smithfield doesn’t want the public to see the horrifying truth of how they produce their pork.”

DxE activists say the actions by the FBI are an indication of the close ties between large agricultural corporations and the government that led to the passage of unconstitutional “ag gag” laws across the nation, which criminalize taking photographs at factory farms. Smithfield, with major operations in ag-gag states such as Utah and North Carolina, was a major beneficiary of those laws. With growing concern over abuse and consumer fraud in the meat industry, the activists say that producers are using illegitimate means to repress nonviolent activism.

“We have people drowning in Houston, some of the worst wildfires in our nation’s history, a president tweeting about nuclear war, and federal prosecutors are concerned about a piglet caper,” University of Denver constitutional law scholar Justin Marceau, one of the lead counsels in the recent constitutional challenge to the Utah ag-gag law, said. “This isn’t about piglets rescued from a dead pile. This is about a systematic crackdown on direct action of the sort celebrated by civil rights leaders. It is disgusting, and I look forward to hearing about the prosecution’s decision to prioritize a case against persons accused of rescuing pigs.”

The DxE activists say the FBI’s targeting of animal sanctuaries, who had no involvement in or knowledge of the Smithfield investigation, is a dramatic example of overreaching by the federal government. Federal agents even followed shelter volunteers back to their homes, dramatically confronting them in front of their families and neighbors.

“We are quite open about the fact that we are documenting abuses and rescuing injured animals,” Hsiung said. “The government doesn’t need to waste resources chasing piglets around the country, scaring senior citizens and families, when they can find all the details about our rescue on YouTube.”

Hsiung says that activists are planning to hold a vigil at Smithfield’s Milford, Utah facility in response to the raids. Activists are also planning demonstrations at FBI and Department of Justice offices around the nation, asking the federal government to end surveillance and intimidation tactics of nonviolent animal advocates, including animal shelter volunteers.

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Published: Mon 14 Oct 2019 by MarkSonoma
Captured/filmed: Not specified
Created: 6 September 2017
ID: 2jsd6au7wn
Licence: Unspecified - please contact the uploader for terms of use.
Country: United States
Location: Smithfield Offices, Laurinburg, North Carolina, United States