I Made Off With 2 Piglets. A Jury Found Me Not Guilty

Animal rights activist Wayne Hsiung delves into his acquittal
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 19, 2022 4:41 PM CDT

In March 2017, five animal rights activists entered Smithfield's Circle Four Farms in Milford, Utah, and made off with two piglets whose condition, the activists alleged, meant certain death. Smithfield was unaware of the thefts until a video of the act was posted months later by the New York Times. The five were indicted on felony burglary and misdemeanor theft charges, and as Wayne Hsiung writes for the Times, three of them took plea deals that guaranteed no prison or jail time. "But Paul [Darwin Picklesimer] and I wanted a jury—and the public—to wrestle with the moral implications of how living beings end up in grocery stores as packages of meat," knowing full well it could end with them spending five years behind bars. Instead, they were both acquitted earlier this month.

In his piece for the Times, Hsiung looks at why—from both a legal perspective, but also from his perspective. He writes that a juror told him that while the consensus was they had committed an "unlawful" act, the jury determined the men didn't have the intent to steal and, importantly, that the piglets had zero value to Smithfield, meaning they couldn't technically be "the objects of a theft." (The Salt Lake Tribune notes the jury heard testimony that the pigs were worth an estimated $42.20 each, but would have required significant amounts of medical care to survive.) But beyond the legal justification, "We believe the decision underscores an increasing unease among the public over the raising and killings of billions of animals on factory farms," writes Hsiung. (Read his full op-ed for much more.)

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