In November 2017, Mother Jones’ Kiera Butler reported on the animal rights activist group Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) and their “bold new animal liberation movement: no masks, no regrets, all the risk.” Eight of the group’s members recorded themselves, in the middle of the night, rescuing a calf from Zonneveld Dairies Inc. outside of Fresno, California. Zonneveld, a Land O’Lakes supplier, is one of roughly 64,000 commercial dairies. Despite California rules which “stipulate that calves must have clean crates and soft bedding,” DxE found Roselynn (the rescued calve) covered in her own dried diarrhea, dangerously dehydrated, and lying on narrow slats. Roselynn was one of hundreds kept under these conditions.
Because of so-called “ag-gag” laws enacted in eight states, people in animal rescue videos often blur out their own faces and keep their identities private, Butler reported. However, DxE activists do not hide their identities, despite the risks involved. DxE activist Wayne Hsiung said, “We’re daring these industries to try us in the court of public opinion and in the court of law… We are happy to have the debate with the industry. They are terrified that the public will side with us.” The group says that, to date, its twelve open rescue videos on Youtube have received over three million views combined.
According to Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald, in August FBI agents raided two animal sanctuaries where they have DxE had taken two piglets that they rescued from a facility in Utah. The Washington Post did publish a story on this incident in September 2017, which quoted statements from both DxE activists and Smithfield Foods, itself owned by Shuanghui International of China.
For the New York Times, Stephanie Strom reported that DxE rescued captive hens at Pleasant Valley Farms, a California farm affiliated with Costco’s Kirkland brand. Written for the Times’ business and financial section, that article’s headline framed “cage free” farms as part of the problem, but also quoted Paul Shapiro, vice president for farm animal protection at the Humane Society of the United States as saying that “cage-free hen housing was without a doubt better than battery cages, though not without problems.” What coverage there has been in the corporate media has been vague, and the articles that have mentioned DxE make no distinctions between that group and more anonymous rescue operations.
Kiera Butler, “Inside the Bold New Animal Liberation Movement: No Masks, No Regrets, All the Risk,” Mother Jones, November 7, 2017, http://www.motherjones.com/food/2017/11/inside-the-bold-new-animal-liberation-movement-no-masks-no-regrets-all-the-risk/#.
Glenn Greenwald, “The FBI’s Hunt for Two Missing Piglets Reveals the Federal Cover-Up of Barbaric Factory Farms,” Intercept, October 5, 2017, https://theintercept.com/2017/10/05/factory-farms-fbi-missing-piglets-animal-rights-glenn-greenwald/.
Student Researcher: Nina Goetz (Syracuse University)
Faculty Evaluator: Jeff Simmons (Syracuse University)
Editor’s Note: For prior coverage by Project Censored of “ag-gag” restrictions targeting animal rights activists, see “Terror Act Against Animal Activists,” story #20 from Censored 2008, as well as “Little Guantanamos: Secretive ‘Communication Management Units’ in the US,” story #21 from Censored 2017.