UPDATE: read about the verdict of the trial here.
Two activists who filmed themselves “rescuing” two piglets from a Utah factory farm in 2017 are standing trial in the US.
The piglets Hsiung and Picklesimer took from the farm, who they named Lily and Lizzie, are alive and well today. Supporters of the activists are campaigning for the “Right to Rescue” animals in distress.
However, animal rights activists Wayne Hsiung and Paul Darwin Picklesimer are both facing burglary and theft charges. They could face a prison sentence of 10 years.
The trial began on Monday (October 3). The defendants had hoped to use their footage as part of their defense, but the judge reportedly ruled that the footage was too graphic for the jury.
After the first day of the trial, the Smithfield Rescue Twitter account said that there had been “solid wins” for the defendants.
It noted: “The judge was more fair with jury selection than expected and they believe the pressure from supporters – both in person and online – contributed to that. So thank you!”
A number of activists are stationed outside the courthouse supporting the defendants. Hsuing, who is an attorney, is representing himself.
Smithfield Rescue is live tweeting the proceedings. In one post, it said that an employee of Smithfield Foods who took to the stand claimed: “We produce protein.”
Background to the trial
Hsiung and Picklesimer filmed themselves entering Utah’s Circle Four Farm, which is owned by Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest pork producer. They did so to investigate the use of gestation crates, which Smithfields promised to ban back in 2007.
When they got there, the activists said they found “row after row” of gestation crates. These crates are two foot by seven foot metal cages that pigs can live in for up to five years of their life while pregnant. They don’t allow them any room to turn around.
The pair say that they found dying and deceased piglets in the farm. Footage filmed by the activists show piglets lying in piles of blood and feces. Hsuing, who is founder of Direct Action Everywhere, said one of the pigs they rescued was starving to death, seriously injured, and unable to walk.
The Smithfield Trial
Hsuing claims that the FBI, dozens of agents, and attorneys have been trying to prosecute the case “for years.” The FBI were even sent to raid sanctuaries in search of Lily and Lizzie after they were rescued. This is despite the fact that the commercial value of both piglets would have been around $42.20 per piglet.
In August, it was announced that Hsiung and Picklesimer had won their motion for a new jury and trial location. This was because the judge agreed that Smithfield and police had biased people in Beaver County, Utah.
Hsiung said in a recent interview that one in four people are employed by Smithfield in the area. Since they filmed footage on the farm, some Smithfield locations have been closed down due to breaches of regulations.
Findings in the farm
Hsiung, who has been an animal cruelty investigator for most of his adult life, said that findings in the farm “shocked even me.”
The factory farm, which is Smithfields’ biggest, contained piles of dead piglets beside their mothers, and also piglets born too early who had fallen through the manure grate and got trapped in there.
“The reason we ultimately decided we needed to rush one of these baby animals to veterinary care was because we concluded that she was starving to death, seriously injured, and unable to walk,” he told TYT’s The Conversation.
“She had no commercial value to the industry, and just as a matter of mercy for this one living creature, we thought she needed to go to the vet. So we took her to the vet.”