Amid mounting concerns—detailed in recent reporting by The Intercept—that Utah prosecutors with ties to the agricultural industry may be improperly motivated to pursue cases against animal rights activists, former law professor Wayne Hsiung was hit with new felony charges in North Carolina on Friday.
Hsiung, who was arrested after exiting a plane at the Asheville Regional Airport, "faces felony charges of breaking and entering and of larceny, as well as a misdemeanor trespass charge," according to the animal rights network he founded, Direct Action Everywhere (DxE). "The Transylvania County prosecutor filed the charges related to the rescue of a baby goat, sick with pneumonia, from a North Carolina farm."
"Goats have the same feelings as a dog or cat and are just as deserving of love and compassion," Hsiung, who took the goat to a veterinarian and then an animal sanctuary, said in a statement. "The law should encourage the rescue of animals rather than the abuse of animals. I believe the people of North Carolina will stand for compassion and not cruelty."
Hsiung is one of six DxE activists featured in The Intercept's latest report, published Thursday, about a pair of ongoing cases in Utah. Hsiung's team filmed conditions at "an industrial farm that supplies turkeys to Norbest, a large company that aggressively markets itself to the public as selling 'mountain grown' turkeys who are treated with particularly humane care," and a pig farm owned by Smithfield Foods. They also rescued a small number of sickly animals from each facility.
These activists, "who took nothing of commercial value, and who injured nobody," face multiple felony charges and could be imprisoned for many years because of "the same grim reality that has corrupted so much of American democracy: Namely, lawmakers, the legislative process, and the justice system are controlled by the most powerful corporate actors, which abuse and exploit democratic and legal processes for their own interests," The Intercept asserts.
The state's ag-gag law was defeated, and "the felony theft statute under which the activists are charged specifies that theft only becomes a felony if the property taken has a value of $1,500 or more." However, the report explains, "Utah legislators, at the behest of the animal agricultural industry, inserted a caveat into this law providing that it is always a felony to take animals raised for commercial purposes, even if the commercial value is trivial or nonexistent."
On top of that, those who have brought the charges in Utah have well-documented ties to the agricultural industry, and as The Intercept notes, "in a state that is dominated by agribusiness, with all sorts of judges, prosecutors, and officials tied to or dependent upon this industry, it is virtually impossible to envision these activists getting anything remotely resembling a fair trial." Both Utah cases have trial dates set for next week.
Leighton Woodhouse, who co-authored the report with Glenn Greenwald and Lee Fang, tweeted Friday that Hsiung was released on bond to speak at a vegan event in Asheville.