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Animals rights activists who participated in the rescue event Monday included Babe actor James Cromwell and former law professor Wayne Hsiung, co-founder of the advocacy group Direct Action Everywhere. (Photo: DxE)

In Heartwarming 'Act of Thanksgiving Mercy,' Farmer Turns Over 100 Turkeys to Animal Rights Group

The slaughterhouse rescue came out of an unlikely friendship between an activist and farmer, and aimed to show the world "that even adversaries can show compassion this holiday season."

Jessica Corbett

In an "act of Thanksgiving mercy" that aimed to show the world "that even adversaries can show compassion this holiday season," the owner of a Utah farm on Monday released 100 turkeys to animal rights activists, including some who face felony charges for investigating his massive turkey farming operation.

This slaughterhouse rescue was "the result of an unlikely friendship between Wayne Hsiung, founder of the animal rights network Direct Action Everywhere (DxE), and Rick Pitman, owner of Pitman Family Farms," according to a DxE statement. The birds will now live out their days at local animal sanctuaries.

DxE live-streamed the "shocking and heartwarming" event on Facebook:

Last year, DxE activists led by Hsiung documented "intensive confinement, injuries, and disease" at barns that supply the Moroni, Utah-based Norbest turkey plant, which Pitman purchased earlier this year. They were charged with felonies that could lead to years in prison for rescuing three sickly birds.

"In my 20 years of investigating animal abuse, I've never seen conditions this horrifying at a corporate farm," Hsiung, a former law professor, told Glenn Greewald at The Intercept. "We saw animals that looked dead but were still breathing; animals, languishing, who had virtually been pecked to death; many animals collapsed on the ground in their own feces and filth. It was as bad as it gets."

While Pitman, who does not support the felony charges, spared a hundred birds, the activists shared vegan food with employees and locals at the event on Monday. As the DxE statement noted, this friendly dynamic was in stark contrast to another of the group's actions in the state, which also led to felony charges:

After DxE released an investigation exposing horrific animal cruelty at Smithfield's Circle Four Farms in Milford, Utah—the largest pig farm in the U.S.—FBI agents raided farm animal sanctuaries searching for piglets removed from the farm by activists. Six activists were later charged with multiple felonies, including a racketeering charge, punishable by up to 60 years in prison.

The rescue action came as part of the Animal Liberation Western Convergence, a grassroots animal rights conference that brought together more than 600 activists in Salt Lake City from Friday to Tuesday. Cromwell, Hsiung, and a crowd of activists on Tuesday brought dead piglets into the Utah's State Capitol Building in hopes of pressuring top state officials to probe Smithfield's treatment of animals and drop charges against animal rescuers.

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