Yesterday, prominent animal rights activist, Wayne Hsiung, was sentenced to two years probation after being convicted of larceny and breaking and entering. Hsiung, the co-founder of the animal rights network Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) and a lawyer himself, was found guilty of rescuing Rain, a baby goat that was sick with pneumonia, from a North Carolina meat farm. Wayne took the baby goat to an animal rescue for medical care to save its life. Hsiung, who represented himself in the case, intends to appeal, citing multiple constitutional concerns.
The rescue, which happened in February of 2018, was broadcast openly on Facebook Live. An issue in the case was the public’s right to rescue animals in distress, and whether the baby goat can be considered a nonhuman “person” under the law, defenses Hsiung raised during the trial.
“The question of this case is a really simple one,” Hsiung said in his opening statement when the hearing began. “The question is: ‘Is compassion a crime?’”
Hsiung had attempted to discuss his previous rescue of Lenny, a different goat that he removed from the same farm, who was also severely ill. The court, however, repeatedly sustained objections from the prosecution that prevented him from doing so.
“This was very far from a fair trial. Evidence of animal cruelty was suppressed, and my opening statement was cut off mid sentence when I started discussing the things we saw at the farm. But the efforts to gag us just show the weakness of their legal and moral position,” Hsiung told WAN. “Every time they gag us, we get stronger because the public wonders, ‘What do they have to hide?’”
“This must be one of the only theft cases in history where the defendant wanted to testify that he had previously gone to the same farm and taken what the government considered to be ‘property’ and the prosecutor fought to keep the jury from hearing about it,” said Bonnie Klapper, a former federal prosecutor and attorney on DxE’s legal team. “It is unconscionable that Hsiung was unable to tell the jury about rescuing Lenny, a goat who was close to death at the time of rescue.”
“Animals are not able to represent themselves in court,” continued Klapper. “For this court to prevent Hsiung from telling Lenny’s story, especially given its direct relevance to Hsiung’s mental state on his second trip to the farm, is not just a denial of Hsiung’s rights as a defendant; it demonstrates institutional animal abuse that further prevents the public from seeing what happens to animals who are exploited in our food system.”
As previously reported by WAN, over the Thanksgiving holiday, Hsiung participated in a turkey pardoning in Sanpete County, Utah, stemming from a similar case, in which Hsiung rescued an injured half-blind turkey from a turkey farm. The farmer in that case, who turned over the turkeys to Hsiung last month, has defended Hsiung’s actions, describing them as “just saving lives.”
The trial was the first in the United States in response to a growing movement of “open rescues,” a form of nonviolent direct action in which activists openly reveal their identities as they remove distressed animals from slaughterhouses, laboratories, and factory farms to receive medical care.
Heroes fighting to save animals, such as Hsuing, should be applauded, not arrested and convicted!
You can help all animals and our planet by choosing compassion on your plate and in your glass. #GoVeg