NOT GUILTY: Utah Jury Acquits Activists Who Rescued Dying Piglets

Two animal advocates have been acquitted of all charges for removing two sick and dying piglets from Circle Four Farms, owned by Smithfield Foods in Utah. Smithfield is the largest pig meat producer in the US.

Wayne Hsiung and Paul Picklesimer were each charged with two counts of burglary, a third-degree felony, and one count of theft, facing up to 10 years in prison—all for saving piglets from death’s doorstep.

Mr. Hsiung and Mr. Picklesimer are part of the group Direct Action Everywhere (also known as DxE), that investigates conditions on farms, and sometimes participates in “open rescues”, the act of rescuing animals from pain and suffering brought on by unlawful conditions.

Smithfield had committed to eliminating cruel gestation crates from its farms by 2017, but when members of DxE entered Smithfield’s factory pig farm in March of 2017, they found mother pigs confined in gestation crates so small they could not turn around, and sick and dead piglets covered in blood and feces. A video they filmed of the investigation was later released as “Operation Deathstar”.

Mr. Hsiung and Mr. Picklesimer rescued two piglets whom they named Lily and Lizzie from near-death conditions at the farm, got them much-needed veterinary attention. The FBI later raided a sanctuary in Colorado, and sliced off two inches from the ear of one pig to determine whether she was from Smithfield. Luckily, Lily and Lizzie weren’t taken away, and remain at a sanctuary today.

Image shows pig at sanctuary getting ear sliced.
Photo: Direct Action Everywhere

Animal Abuse Hidden at Trial

During the trial, the judge prevented Mr. Hsiung and Mr. Picklesimer from showing the jury the video of the rescue, the nightmarish conditions on the farm, and dumpster at Smithfield where dead piglets were discarded. Evidence at the trial showed that piglet mortality rates at the operation were approximately 15 percent.

Evidence at the trial shows the piglets were worth at most $42.20 to Smithfield, but that because they were sick, injured, and malnourished, they effectively had negative value to Smithfield, as their veterinary treatment cost hundreds of dollars.

The defendants argued that Mr. Hsiung took nothing of value was taken from Smithfield, and that Picklesimer was merely documenting the investigation with a camera. After a full day of deliberations, the jury returned verdicts of not guilty on all counts.

“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, who are priceless,” said Mr. Picklesimer 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.”

Pigs’ Lives are Filled with Misery

In Canadian farms, as well as in the US, the vast majority of mother pigs suffer inside gestation crates—cages they are kept in while pregnant that are so small they can’t even turn around.

Animal Justice is pushing for stronger legal protections for farmed animals, as well as the end to some of the cruelest forms of farmed animal confinement. Please add your voice to end the use of cruel gestation crates in Canada. To avoid cruelty altogether, please consider choosing plant-based food options instead.

Banner: Direct Action Everywhere