Thirty-nine people were arrested in California on Tuesday after approximately 500 animal rights activists organized by the Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) network staged a non-violent vigil and attempted a rescue operation at an industrial egg facility in the town of Petaluma.
"These birds are living creatures, not things, but Amazon and other major retailers treat them like commodities." —Priya Sawhney, DxE
Marching outside the farm entrance carrying flowers and denouncing the "horrific cruelty" they say takes place within the facility, the group was confronted by local police who barred them from entering and later arrested those who tried.
The group cited this video footage as evidence that Sunrise Farms—one of the region's largest egg farms and which provides eggs to Amazon-owned Whole Foods grocery chain—is keeping the birds in cruel and unhealthy confinement.
"Americans do not want to see animals exploited in our food system," former Northwestern law professor and DxE co-founder Wayne Hsiung said. "But when we have gone to authorities or corporations like Amazon with absolutely horrific footage of cruelty, no action has been taken."
Along with Hsuing—already facing the potential of decades in prison for previous investigations and similar rescue operations—dozens of other activists were arrested by local law enforcement after, according to the group, they attempted to enter the farm and access one of the industrial chicken sheds to document conditions and demand the transfer of sick or mistreated birds to the city animal shelter.
As the local Press Democrat reports:
Organizers claim the egg farm is an example of a systemic pattern of criminal animal abuse in California that isn't being addressed by either the justice system or by state and local animal welfare agencies.
"When the law is failing us, consumers and individuals have the right, and even the obligation, to reveal what’s happening behind closed doors," said Cassie King, one of the organizers arrested Tuesday.
King maintained that California law expressly allows the protesters the right to provide aid and care to sick and injured animals and to document violations of the state's animal cruelty laws.
"These birds are living creatures, not things, but Amazon and other major retailers treat them like commodities,"DxE lead investigator Priya Sawhney said. "Whether it's foie gras or fur or factory farms, Amazon is shipping cruelty into millions of households across the world."
Hsiung, who was ultimately one of those arrested, said that when more Americans see "what's happening behind the doors of factory farms, they know it's against their values."
But, he added, "as long as corporations control our food system—including sending whistleblowers to prison—we won't have a food system with integrity." He concluded by saying he hopes Tuesday's demonstration "will chip away at their power."