Animal rights activists cited for attempted pig rescue at Farmer John plant

Seven animal rights activists were cited for trespassing while trying to rescue a pig from the Farmer John slaughterhouse in Vernon.

Police received a call around 4 a.m. Friday from officials at Smithfield Foods, owner of Farmer John, to report that some trespassers were on the premises at 3049 E. Vernon Ave., according to Vernon Police Sgt. Daniel Onopa.

"Two subjects were determined to be inside the livestock yard and five subjects fled on foot,'' Onopa said. "They (the five subjects) were then detained by officers nearby. Due to the pandemic, they were cited at the scene and released.''

VERNON, CA - MAY 26: The Farmer John slaughterhouse is seen after 153 workers tested positive for COVID-19, on May 26, 2020 in Vernon, California. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

The animal rights group DXE Los Angeles, which is hosting a 48-hour vigil in front of the slaughterhouse beginning Sunday, posted a video on its Facebook page showing activists wearing hardhats inside the facility. The group
places a pig on a gurney and attempts to leave, but police are shown outside
and a voice is heard saying, "they're locking the doors, guys.''

It was unclear how the activists gained entry to the plant.

"I don't know the exact details about that,'' Onopa said. "There's still pending, further investigation that I can't comment on.''

Matt Johnson, spokesman for Direct Action Everywhere, said the group was unable to rescue the pig, who they assume was killed.

The group identified the seven activists as Emek Echo, Lewis Bernier, Alicia Santurio, Rachel Hosler, Zoe Rosenberg, Robert Franklin and Alexandra
Paul. Paul is an actress best known for a starring role in the 1983 horror
film, "Christine,'' and a role on the TV series "Baywatch'' from 1992-97.

"Smithfield will do anything to keep making money, from torturing pigs to endangering its workers' lives,'' she said. "We took nonviolent direct action because lives are at stake.''

The company responded with the following statement Friday: "A Smithfield facility in Vernon, Calif., was recently targeted by an extremist animal rights group that has no regard for the law. In this instance, after a criminal break-in, the activists endangered the safety of personnel and violated standards of animal care. These tactics are aimed at forcing a vegan agenda on Americans in a smear campaign that disregards facts, relies on a false narrative and promotes a slanted agenda aimed at eradicating animal agriculture. This criminal behavior is despicable.''

The animal rights group said the seven entrants managed to retrieve a hidden camera previously planted in the facility with 81 hours of footage of the slaughter line, "the first time public footage has been obtained from inside the slaughterhouse.''

Thousands of pigs are trucked into the facility each day, where they are killed and turned into Dodger Dogs, as well as the ham, bacon, sausage and hot dogs sold under the Farmer John label.

DXE said on Facebook that its vigil will attempt to educate workers and the public about the inhumane treatment of animals at such plants, and the effect of the factory farming industry on climate change and public health issues, including the coronavirus pandemic. A DXE-led coalition of dozens of
organizations are also calling on California Gov. Gavin Newsom to issue an
executive order prohibiting the construction of new factory farms and
slaughterhouses in the state.

Organizers said Saturday that they expect "dozens'' of arrests at Sunday's vigil.