On Tuesday, hundreds of people with the group Direct Action Everywhere marched to an industrial shed housing chickens in Petaluma, California, that is owned by Sunrise Farms, which supplies cage-free eggs to Amazon and Whole Foods. Activists say they removed 37 chickens and took them to get veterinary care. Police arrested 39 people for trespassing. We speak to Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald, who just addressed the Animal Liberation Conference this weekend in Berkeley, California.
More from this Interview
- Part 1: Glenn Greenwald: Why Did ABC Ignore Roseanne Barr’s Hateful Tweets Against Arabs & Palestinians?
- Part 2: 39 Arrested Protesting Industrial Farm Supplying So-Called “Cage-Free” Eggs to Amazon & Whole Foods
- Part 3: Bred to Suffer: Glenn Greenwald on the “Morally Unconscionable” U.S. Industry of Dog Experimentation
- Part 4: Glenn Greenwald on Julian Assange, Ecuador & Threats to Press Freedom
- Part 5: Greenwald: FBI Informant in Trump Campaign Once Ran CIA Spy Operation Helping Reagan Win in 1980
- Part 6: Glenn Greenwald on Mueller, Chelsea Manning & New Martina Navratilova Doc with Reese Witherspoon
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to move on to a new issue. Juan?
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, yes, Glenn, I want to shift gears and turn to the topic of the increasing number of animal welfare activists facing criminal charges for filming and exposing abuse on industrial farms through direct action and social media. On Tuesday, hundreds of people with the group Direct Action Everywhere marched to an industrial shed housing chickens in Petaluma, California. The shed is owned by Sunrise Farms, which supplies cage-free eggs to Amazon and Whole Foods. What happened next unfolded on Facebook Live, narrated at first by the group’s co-founder, Wayne Hsiung. This is an edited recap.
WAYNE HSIUNG: I want to show you a photo of what’s happening inside this farm. Our activists were in this farm as recently as a couple days ago, and you see animals with huge sores on their heads, going blind, animals collapsed on the ground in feces, rotting to death. And this is standard practice. And people don’t realize this is a farm that supplies Whole Foods and Amazon. Amazon is the largest retailer in the world. They’re shipping animal cruelty to 300 million households across the world. It is one-click cruelty. And it’s time for this one-click cruelty to stop. And the only way to make it stop, when you’ve gone to the government, you’ve gone to law enforcement, you’ve gone to the corporations and CEOs and politicians, time and time again—the only way to make this violence stop is for people to take direct action.
UNIDENTIFIED: Hey! Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait.
JULIANNE PERRY: I’m Julianne Perry. I’m here with Direct Action Everywhere.
WAYNE HSIUNG: Sir, sir, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED: Back, back, back.
WAYNE HSIUNG: Sir, sir, sir.
JULIANNE PERRY: Out of the way! Out of the way!
WAYNE HSIUNG: Sir, we do have the right. [inaudible]
UNIDENTIFIED: Guys, can we move you all off the concrete? Off the concrete. The authorities have been called.
WAYNE HSIUNG: We do have a right. Do you want me to show you the statute?
UNIDENTIFIED: It doesn’t matter. I’d like to have the authorities here when we discuss it.
WAYNE HSIUNG: We’re going to have [inaudible], OK?
UNIDENTIFIED: You can come and talk to me, but you can’t overwhelm me with [inaudible].
WAYNE HSIUNG: You don’t think this animal is suffering? Animals collapsed in [inaudible].
UNIDENTIFIED: I have no idea where you got this picture.
WAYNE HSIUNG: This was taken from this barn. There’s a GPS tag on the photo.
UNIDENTIFIED: OK, so, tell you what. Would a person allow you to come in and show me?
WAYNE HSIUNG: [inaudible] statute: “Any person who impounds or causes to be impounded in any pound, any domestic animal”—
UNIDENTIFIED: I mean no disrespect to you, but, guys—
WAYNE HSIUNG: —”shall supply iduring such confinement” [inaudible]—
JULIANNE PERRY: We have activists putting on biosecurity gear, activists behind them holding flowers. There are hundreds of activists here today demanding to know what happens inside of corporate farms, what happens to chickens who are held in these farms. When you buy cage-free organic eggs—
UNIDENTIFIED: Get outta here! Get outta here!
WAYNE HSIUNG: We have a right under this California…
UNIDENTIFIED: You don’t have a right of anything!
WAYNE HSIUNG: We do. Do you want to read the statute [inaudible]?
UNIDENTIFIED: You do not have a right.
WAYNE HSIUNG: Well, we took pictures that showed the animals…
UNIDENTIFIED: I don’t give a [bleep] what you took.
JULIANNE PERRY: So I’ve been cleared to enter. Excuse me. And we need to show you what is happening.
UNIDENTIFIED: Hey! Don’t touch me! Hey! Don’t touch me!
JULIANNE PERRY: Do not touch my property! OK, folks, we are inside. We [inaudible]. I was able to duck under someone. Someone, show me what’s happening.
UNIDENTIFIED: They have someone over there. They have someone over there.
JULIANNE PERRY: Show me what’s happening.
UNIDENTIFIED: So, over here, they have some—
JULIANNE PERRY: Walk with me. Walk with me. Go.
UNIDENTIFIED: OK, all right.
JULIANNE PERRY: We have the livestream inside. I was able to duck underneath one—oh, my god! Oh, my god!
UNIDENTIFIED: Yeah. Yeah, it’s bad.
JULIANNE PERRY: Oh, my god! Look at all these girls.
UNIDENTIFIED: [inaudible] There’s so many that are out. Those birds are going to die because they have no access to water.
JULIANNE PERRY: Oh, my god! We are live—
UNIDENTIFIED: And there’s—look, right there. Look. Two of them.
JULIANNE PERRY: —inside of a factory farm in California.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: That’s an excerpt of a live-streamed video of hundreds of activists with Direct Action Everywhere protesting Tuesday at an industrial shed housing chickens for Sunrise Farms in Petaluma, California. Activists say they removed 37 chickens and took them to get veterinary care. Police arrested 39 people for trespassing.
AMY GOODMAN: This comes as Utah officials have filed felony burglary and rioting charges against five members of the group, including co-founder Wayne Hsiung, accusing them of removing a pair of piglets from a Smithfield Foods hog farm during a direct action in Utah last year. A warrant for their arrest filed Monday said they had, quote, “engaged in a pattern of unlawful activity and committed the offenses of burglary and theft targeting animal enterprises located in Utah and other states,” unquote. The activists could face 60 years in prison.
For more, we’re continuing with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald, who has long fought secrecy and is now investigating animal cruelty. He spoke this weekend at the Animal Liberation Conference in Berkeley, California, and just published a new report headlined “Bred to Suffer: Inside the Barbaric U.S. Industry of Dog Experimentation,” which we’re going to talk about in a minute. But, Glenn, talk about this video we’ve just watched.
GLENN GREENWALD: So, I was in San Francisco, in the Bay Area, as you mentioned, just this weekend—I just got back to Brazil yesterday—where I interviewed a lot of those very activists that you just showed on the film. And I think what’s really important to note here is that for a long time the issue of animal rights was kind of perceived, even by the left, to be this sort of fringe or isolated issue, kind of this boutique concern that wasn’t related to other fights for social justice or for political reform. And in fact they’re extremely closely related. So, no matter what your views are on the morality of slaughtering animals for food, I think that everybody should be able to agree that industrial, systematic torture of animals on their way to being slaughtered for food is morally unacceptable.
And it reminds me a lot of the work that I do on war, in American wars around the world. The reason why the U.S. population is willing to tolerate constant, continual, repeated killing by their own government of people in foreign countries is because they never have to see the results of the policies that they turn away from, because the dead are never shown or rarely reported on. And this is the same for the agricultural industry in factory farms in the U.S. that keep these animals in the most horrific and unconscionable conditions where they suffer greatly. Everybody with pets or who have interacted with animals know that animals have emotional complexity, the capacity for great suffering. They keep them in conditions that it’s just horrific to look at, and that’s why people want to turn away.
And so, what these activists are doing, the only thing they’re doing is really journalism. They’re going and filming inside of these facilities in order to make the world see what actually goes on inside of them. And that’s why they’re being prosecuted, and that’s why they’re being arrested.
Occasionally, as a symbol, they’ll take a dying animal who was going to die before it makes its way to the slaughterhouse anyway and therefore has no commercial value, and they rescue them. They bring them to a veterinarian. They care for them. They bring them to a shelter so that they can live lives. They personalize it to show the nature of animal suffering. They don’t ever take anything of commercial value.
What their real crime is, is that they’re shining a light on what these extremely powerful and profitable corporations are doing. And that’s why these corporations, which control the government and control law enforcement, are prosecuting them. They’re punishing them in response to the journalism that they’re doing, to chill and deter people from shining a light on what it is that really goes on inside of American industrial farms and the horrific torture and suffering that animals endure in our name.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Glenn, the issue of, for instance—in this particular case, these were chickens that were being bred for Amazon and Whole Foods. The total false advertising of these companies in terms of—you’re reading about cage-free hens, that the reality is quite different. So it’s not only the barbarism of the way the animals are being treated, but the complete fraud in the advertising of these companies.
GLENN GREENWALD: No, exactly, Juan. That’s such an important point. Because there have been, thanks to the heroic work of animal rights activists, increasing recognition of how horrifically animals are treated as part of animal agriculture, and so a lot of consumers are receptive to appeals by corporations like Whole Foods and Amazon that there’s ethical eating choices, that you can buy organic foods where the animals are treated better. And the reality is much, much different.
Just last month, we reported on a turkey farm in Utah that the same activists with Direct Action Everywhere were able to film, and the abuse of these turkeys and the disease and the injuries in which they were suffering was absolutely horrific and completely at odds with the bucolic organic branding that this company, which is now a supplier of Whole Foods, advertises to people and convinces people to buy their products on the basis of. And it’s the same of this chicken farm. You saw some of the hideous images. It is absolutely corporate deceit and corporate fraud.
And the problem is, is that both at the federal level and at the state level, agricultural executives are in charge of the regulatory bodies, and therefore view even the minimal laws governing animal welfare as a joke. And so, even when companies radically and purposely violate the minimum welfare laws, they barely get fined. A lot of times they just get warned, even for the most egregious abuses. And that’s what these activists are saying. They’re saying there are laws in place to prevent animal abuse, and the government is purposely abdicating its role in enforcing the law, leaving activists with no choice but to do it themselves, because nobody else is doing it.