In the fall of 2017, Glenn Greenwald reported on a nationwide FBI manhunt for two pigs named Lily and Lizzie. The pigs had been removed from a factory farm in Utah by animal rights activists from a group called Direct Action Everywhere. From the perspective of the activists, the pigs were rescued. From the perspective of Smithfield Farms, the Chinese-owned multinational corporation that owns the factory farm, they were stolen.
Direct Action Everywhere, also known as DxE, engages in a practice called “open rescue.” Open rescue involves entering, without authorization, the facilities of animal-based industries, such as farms, slaughterhouses, and puppy mills, documenting the conditions within them, and removing as many animals as possible, usually from among the sick and injured. The activists don’t wear masks and make no effort to conceal their identities; they post the videos on social media for the world to see. By practically inviting prosecution, the activists aim to make a point: that the laws that regard these animals as mere property are wrong and that violating those laws is a moral imperative.
Since Greenwald’s story was published, prosecutors in Utah have charged six DxE activists with multiple felonies, both for the Smithfield action and for a separate open rescue of turkeys at a Utah factory farm owned by Norbest. In Utah, stealing property worth less than $1,500 is generally a misdemeanor. But lawmakers have carved out an exception specifically for the benefit of the animal agriculture industry. If the property in question is an animal “raised for commercial purposes,” then no matter how little economic value that animal may have, the crime is a felony. Because of this exception, DxE activists are potentially facing decades in prison.
Our new documentary tells the rest of the story to date. It’s an alarming example of the power of the animal agriculture industry, the confluence of interests between industry and law enforcement, and the appalling treatment of animals in industrial agricultural production.