Sonoma County Jury Convicts Animal Rights Leader In Farm Trespass Case

by Michelle C. Pardo

Wayne Hsiung, the co-founder of Direct Action Everywhere (DxE), a Berkeley, California based animal activist group, was found guilty of two counts of misdemeanor trespass and one count of felony conspiracy to trespass on November 2, following a two month jury trial.  The jury could not reach a unanimous verdict on a second felony conspiracy charge, resulting in a mistrial on that charge.  Hsiung’s conviction followed six days of deliberations by a jury in Santa Rosa, California.  Hsiung was taken into custody immediately following the verdict. Continue reading “Sonoma County Jury Convicts Animal Rights Leader In Farm Trespass Case”

D.C. Circuit Rejects National Marine Fisheries Service’s “Egregiously Wrong” Decision on Right Whales

By Michelle C. Pardo

On June 16, 2023, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS or Service), which licenses and regulates fisheries in federal waters, was not permitted to give the “benefit of the doubt” to endangered species or rely on worst-case scenarios or pessimistic assumptions in preparing biological opinions required by the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  Maine Lobstermen’s Association v. National Marine Fisheries Service (D.C. Cir. June, 16, 2023) (slip opinion). Continue reading “D.C. Circuit Rejects National Marine Fisheries Service’s “Egregiously Wrong” Decision on Right Whales”

Animal Rights Activist Gets Rammed by NFL Player

By Michelle C. Pardo

The video of NFL linebacker Bobby Wagner tackling an animal rights activist who had charged the field with a smoke bomb at last week’s Los Angeles Rams – San Francisco 49ers game in Santa Clara was the subject of much (and some amusing) color commentary.  But Direct Action Everywhere (DxE), the radical animal rights group behind the dangerous stunt, raises significant issues regarding player, referee, security staff and spectator safety.

The DxE activist was protesting and trying to bring attention to criminal charges against two of his fellow activists who are facing trial for the “open rescues” – the act of illegally entering and stealing animals from farms to “save” them and prevent them from entering the food supply.  Wayne Hsiung, the founder of DxE (who stepped down from his leadership position due to his multiple criminal cases (see our blog post, here) is currently on trial in Utah for a 2017 raid of a pork production facility.  Hsiung was previously convicted in North Carolina for another “open rescue” but received no jail time, a sentence he actually had wanted according to his social media postings.  (Read our blog post about it, here).  Hsiung and DxE member Paul Picklesimer are currently on trial in St. George, Utah, on felony burglary and theft charges for “Operation Deathstar” — their infiltration of a Smithfield owned pig farm in Utah.  If convicted, they could face more than 10 years in prison.  Other DxE protestors accepted pleas deals, but the two remaining defendants sought to go to trial to raise awareness of their cause.

Wagner noticed that security was having trouble intercepting the protestor and stepped in to stop him, with linebacker Takkarist McKinley giving him an assist.  According to DxE’s press release, the protestors were cited and released from custody that night.  A similar protest occurred at the season-opener Bills-Rams game, which, according to DxE, resulted in a head injury to one of its protestors.  DxE also took responsibility for a protest at a Minnesota Timberwolves game back in April.

It has been reported that the protestor subsequently filed an assault complaint (with the Santa Clara police) against the Rams players, describing their conduct as “blatant assault.”  But was the conduct justified under a theory of self-defense or defense of others?  While an unruly fan charging the field may have done so “merely” for publicity, an unauthorized person, running onto the field and near other players and personnel, while waiving an unidentified smoking device, and resisted attempts to stop him, could reasonably be interpreted as someone who could do harm.  As Wagner later told media, you “never know” the intruder’s intentions or whether they are carrying or concealing a weapon.  In California, self-defense (or defense of others) is a valid defense to assault where the individual reasonably believes that he or someone else was in imminent danger of suffering bodily injury.  In acting in self-defense, however, one may only use the amount of force that is reasonably necessary to defend oneself or others.

While some may view Wagner’s action as excessive force, as the video shows, prior to the tackle, others had tried to stop the protestor and failed.

Apart from self-defense, under a theory of assumption of the risk – if you run onto a football field during a game, it is reasonably foreseeable that you could be tackled and suffer injury (particularly if you choose to storm the field in a t-shirt without pads or a helmet).

For DxE members, the threat of injury or prison goes with the activist territory.  In a recent Harper’s Magazine story about DxE’s press coordinator, Matt Johnson said that it made “practical sense” to go to prison for a piglet – presumably more practical than his 2018 idea to set himself on fire in order to gain attention for climate change.  But for the NFL – or  other sport teams or high profile entertainers that pack venues across the country – these publicity stunts can create real threats to the safety of players, security guides and even participants.  This time, it may have been just a smoke bomb, but a copycat seeking to “one up” this stunt could use something far more destructive to bring attention to a cause.

In California, employers may seek a Workplace Violence Restraining Order (WVRO) on behalf of an employee, which prohibits unlawful violence or credible threats of violence against an employee.  Cal. Civil Proc. §527.8. An employer must prove that the employee has suffered unlawful violence (like assault or battery) or a credible threat of violence.  WVROs can order the restrained person to stay away from the employee’s workplace or not go near the employee.

An exception exists where the accused person is engaging in constitutionally protected activity, which can be a significant barrier to obtaining a WVRO against a protestor.  But for those protestors that repeatedly target a business or organization or its employees, and their conduct advances from peaceful protest to threatening or engaging in bodily harm, the constitutional protections will not insulate their actions.  The California WVRO procedure has been used to stop individual animal activists whose protests resulted in conduct that threatened a business’s employees.

Unfortunately, the threat of legal action against its members may not concern DxE, which reportedly saw the “biggest spike” to its website following the NFL stunt.  Unfortunately, until sidelined with legal action or an actual criminal conviction with prison time, DxE protestors may continue to threaten the safety of players and other employees in pursuit of their goal: to “achieve revolutionary social and political change for animals in one generation.”

Is California’s Dog and Cat Bill of Rights a Trojan Horse?

by Michelle C. Pardo

On February 8, 2022, California Assemblyman Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles) introduced Assembly Bill 1881, referred to as the Dog and Cat Bill of Rights.  The purported purpose of the bill is to inform potential adopters of the care needed to create a healthy environment for their adopted pets.

While recognizing that existing animal welfare laws address animal abuse and neglect, the pet-centric Bill of Rights seeks to codify dog and cats fundamental rights and impose new duties on local public officials and organizations to post these rights so that adoptive families can be informed of pet ownership responsibilities. Continue reading “Is California’s Dog and Cat Bill of Rights a Trojan Horse?”

Animal Rights Groups Don’t Want FSIS to Mandate Identification of Lab-Grown Meat Production Process on Product Labels

By Michelle C. Pardo

Four animal rights groups have submitted a joint public comment in response to the Food Safety and Inspection Service’s (FSIS) advanced notice of proposed rulemaking on the labeling of meat and poultry products comprised of or containing cultured cells derived from animals subject to the Federal Meat Inspection Act or the Poultry Products Inspection Act.

While cell-cultured or lab grown meat (also referred to as “clean meat” or “fake meat”) has been in the headlines for years, the road to federal regulation of such products and their debut on store shelves is still a work in progress.  We previously blogged about animal rights groups’ efforts to stop state consumer fraud laws from limiting their ability to label and market lab-grown, insect or plant-based foods.  (Read those blog entries here; here; here; and here).  But, the bigger stakes (steaks?) regarding meat labeling are set to occur at the federal level during the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS)’s rulemaking. Continue reading “Animal Rights Groups Don’t Want FSIS to Mandate Identification of Lab-Grown Meat Production Process on Product Labels”

North Carolina Jury Hands Down Felony Convictions for Animal Activist’s “Open Rescue”

by Michelle C. Pardo

Wayne Hsiung, animal activist and co-founder of Berkeley, CA-based animal rights group, Direct Action Everywhere (DxE), was found guilty by jury of felony larceny after breaking and entering and felony breaking and entering, for taking a goat from the Sospiro Goat Ranch in Transylvania County, North Carolina, back in 2018.

Hsiung, who had spearheaded DxE’s “open rescues” – illegally entering agriculture properties without permission and taking animals to liberate them – had been charged with criminal conduct in multiple jurisdictions.  In the North Carolina case, Hsiung claimed that he and the other DxE “investigators” entered the ranch to identify animals that were diseased or suffering from neglect.  According to the goat ranch, at the time of the “rescue” the baby goat was living with its mother and healthy and nursing well at the time of its theft. Continue reading “North Carolina Jury Hands Down Felony Convictions for Animal Activist’s “Open Rescue””

Maine “Right to Food” Constitutional Amendment On the Ballot

by Michelle C. Pardo

Maine voters will go to the polls today to vote up or down on whether to support a  “right to food.”   Today’s ballot will ask voters to decide if they want to amend the state constitution to include a right to:

“declare that all individuals have a natural, inherent and unalienable right to grow, raise, harvest, produce and consume the food of their choosing for their own nourishment, sustenance, bodily health and well-being”

Maine would be the first state to codify a right to food.  Supporters of the amendment have said that approval of the amendment will “enshrine in the most fundamental form of law their right to make their own choices when feeding themselves and their families” and also will “promote locally produced food products and improve consumer health and safety.” Continue reading “Maine “Right to Food” Constitutional Amendment On the Ballot”

Animal Rights Group’s “Purely Speculative” Changes to Wildlife Management Plan Don’t Support Emergency Relief for Tule Elk

By Michelle C. Pardo

On June 22, 2021, Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) and three individuals (represented by Harvard University’s Animal Law & Policy Clinic) brought an Administrative Procedure Act (APA) case against the Secretary of the Interior, the Acting Director of the National Park Service, and the Superintendent of Point Reyes National Seashore, regarding what plaintiffs allege is the federal government’s inhumane management practices of Tule elk, a species of elk native to California. At issue: the government’s alleged failure to revise the 1980 General Management Plan for the Tomales Point portion of the Point Reyes National Seashore (located in Marin County, California) where 293 Tule elk live as well as the 1998 Tule Elk Management Plan, which provided for elk restoration and conservation. Continue reading “Animal Rights Group’s “Purely Speculative” Changes to Wildlife Management Plan Don’t Support Emergency Relief for Tule Elk”

Animal Rights Group Sues USDA Over “Non-Enforcement” of Animal Welfare Act

By Michelle C. Pardo

Earlier this month, animal rights group The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) filed a lawsuit under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) against the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for what it alleges to be the agency’s non-enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) as it pertains to commercially bred dogs. ASPCA v. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, et al. (1:21-cv-01600) (D.D.C.). Continue reading “Animal Rights Group Sues USDA Over “Non-Enforcement” of Animal Welfare Act”

Animal Activist Group’s “Open Rescue” Violates California’s Unfair Competition Law

by Michelle C. Pardo

Animal activist group Direct Action Everywhere (“DxE”), which made headlines for its members’ multiple criminal charges as a result of trespassing and removing animals from agriculture operations, has been enjoined for its violation of California’s Unfair Competition Law (“UCL”) for its “open rescue” actions against Diestel Turkey Ranch.  After targeting Diestel’s turkey farms with its tactics, and launching an “investigation” of its turkey raising practices, back in January of 2017, DxE sued Diestel in the Alameda County Superior Court under the UCL and the False Advertising Law (FAL).  DxE alleged that Diestel Turkey Ranch’s marketing had made misleading and deceptive claims about how its turkeys are raised.  Direct Action Everywhere SF Bay Area v. Diestel Turkey Ranch (RG17847475) (Superior Court, Alameda County). Continue reading “Animal Activist Group’s “Open Rescue” Violates California’s Unfair Competition Law”

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The opinions expressed on this blog are those of the author and are not to be construed as legal advice.

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