Animal rights activists found not guilty in pig factory rescue

Wayne Hsiung and Paul Darwin Picklesimer rescued two piglets in 2017 from a Smithfield pig factory farm in Utah, credit: Direct Action Everywhere
Wayne Hsiung, right, and Paul Darwin Picklesimer rescued two piglets in 2017 from a Smithfield pig factory farm in Utah, credit: Direct Action Everywhere

Animal rights activists Wayne Hsiung and Paul Darwin Picklesimer were found not guilty on Saturday. The two faced burglary and theft charges for entering a pig factory farm in the United States and rescuing two very ill piglets, Lizzie and Lily.

In 2017, Hsiung, Picklesimer, and three other activists went into Utah’s Circle Four Farm to film the conditions inside the facility. The farm is owned by Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest producer of pig meat.

When the activists entered the huge factory, they found it filled with rows of pregnant pigs caged in the crates the company said it didn’t use anymore.

The group found dead piglets inside the factory and visibly ill and injured ones like Lizzie and Lily.

“The investigators filmed the horrific conditions inside in 360º virtual reality and rescued two piglets: Lily, who had a severe leg injury, and Lizzie, who was malnourished and nursing on a shredded nipple,” Direct Action Everywhere (DxE), an international grassroots network of animal rights activists, said.

Based on the video, investigators identified five defendants; three activists took plea deals. Picklesimer and Hsiung could have served up to five and a half years in prison if they were convicted.

During their trial, which lasted a week, they argued that nothing of value was stolen because the 3-week-old piglets were very sick and likely to die.

“Whenever I think about the condition Lily was in, and the desperation we felt when we saw her there, struggling and so small and so sick, a little baby in such a horrible, awful, brutal place,” Hsiung said, “we just wanted to get her out.”

Hsiung and Picklesimer hoped to persuade the jury that it made no sense to imprison people for saving suffering animals.

“Against the advice of my co-counsel and pretty much all the attorneys I’ve talked to, I’m going to tell you exactly what we did on the night in question because I believe in the people of this country and the people of Utah to make the right choice,” Wayne Hsiung, who is an attorney and represented himself, told the jury.

“Animal rescue” is not the worst part of us as human beings. It’s the best of us.”

Animal rights activists described the not guilty verdict as a turning point for the animal rights movement, opening the door to a legal “right to rescue.”

“They just let a guy who walked into a factory farm and took two piglets out without the consent of Smithfield walk out of the courtroom free,” Hsiung told reporters. “If it can happen in southern Utah, it can happen anywhere.”

“Today is a good day for somebody in particular, and that’s Lily and Lizzie, two pigs who are living their best lives in the sunshine right now (at a sanctuary), who are priceless,” Picklesimer said after the verdict.

“They got the right to be rescued today. There are billions of animals who don’t have that right yet, and we’re going to keep working for them.”

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