one green planet
one green planet

Animal rights activists, Alicia Santurio and Alexandra Paul, were recently acquitted by a California jury of misdemeanor theft charges. The charges stemmed from the activists taking two sick chickens from Foster Farms, one of the biggest poultry companies in the US. The activists admitted to taking the chickens, but they argued that it was a rescue mission. The chickens were worth only $8.16 each, but Santurio and Paul still faced up to six months in jail if convicted. The rescue mission followed a hidden-camera investigation at the same slaughterhouse, which drew attention to the appalling cruelty of poultry slaughter.

Source: Direct Action Everywhere – DxE/Youtube

The defense argued that the chickens were not fit for the food supply, making them worthless to Foster Farms. The chickens were severely ill and struggled to stand, and one of them eventually died. The acquittal is a significant victory for Direct Action Everywhere (DxE), a grassroots Animal rights group, which has been testing out a strategy it calls “open rescue.” Activists walk into factory farms and slaughterhouses and remove animals suffering there, taking them to receive veterinary care and eventually to live out their lives peacefully on animal sanctuaries.

The philosophy of direct action is utopian in that it enacts the ultimate outcome that activists want to achieve for farmed animals: freedom from exploitation and commodification. Direct action represents “the defiant insistence on acting as if one is already free,” as the late anthropologist David Graeber put it. Activists are refuting animals’ status as chattel, albeit indirectly. Animals’ property status makes it exceedingly hard to fight directly on their behalf in court. If animals can’t stand in court, human activists can put their freedom on the line for them instead.

Santurio and Paul’s victory comes after a historic trial last October, in which DxE activists were acquitted by a Utah jury after facing a decade in prison for rescuing two sick, dying piglets from Smithfield Foods, America’s top pork producer. More and more of the group’s rescues are making their way to trial, where activists often facing lengthy prison sentences attempt to convince juries that they have a “right to rescue.”

These victories show that direct rescue can work, and the use of the tactic is growing. The open rescue strategy is gaining attention from legal experts, a notable change from the last decade-plus, when animal advocates shied away from such risky tactics, shaken by high-profile criminal convictions of activists in the 2000s. Last fall, the University of Denver started the Animal Activist Legal Defense Project, a law clinic devoted to representing activists facing prosecution. One of its attorneys, Chris Carraway, represented Alicia Santurio in the Foster Farms trial.

The acquittals in these cases challenge the idea that the Animal rights agenda is radical or unpopular. They show that sometimes it can be legal to take animals from factory farms without the consent of their owners, opening up radically different possibilities for animal law. These victories also offer a chance for rescuers to tell the stories of the animals they saved, connecting the fathomless billions suffering in factory farming to individual animals with lives worth living.

As we celebrate these victories, we must continue to push for an end to factory farming in the US. Meat consumption continues to grow, and plant-based meat remains a niche product. The meat industry fights hard-won bans on its worst practices. We need to experiment with novel strategies alongside marginal welfare improvements in the meat industry.

In conclusion, the victories of Alicia Santurio and Alexandra Paul are victories for Animal rights and for the fight against factory farming. Direct rescue is a strategy that is gaining attention and proving its effectiveness. We can all do our part by supporting animal sanctuaries and adopting a plant-based diet.

Tiny Rescue Animal Collection

Speak Up Tee By Tiny Rescue: Animal Collection

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