How a baywatch star saved miley from becoming meat
By Leslie Goldberg
As she was getting ready to go out late one night this year Alexandra Paul’s husband said to her, “Am I going to have to bail you out of jail tomorrow?”
The film actor, a former star of “Baywatch,” said, “I hope not,” as she pulled on a pair of sneakers. Paul, who played Lt. Stephanie Holden on the TV series, was going on a secret animal rights “action” – a real one.
Unbeknownst to her partner, Paul would be entering a Hormel Foods-owned Farmer John pig facility along with other members of the animal rights network Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) to document conditions there and to rescue animals in need of medical care. Her preparations for the mission had included going to Best Buy to buy a “burner phone.”
“I told my husband, ‘I promise you, I’m not having an affair,’” she said. “I just need this.”
In the wee hours of the morning, the group of activists crept onto the property located in a remote area in Kings County, CA 100 miles south of Fresno. Unseen from the freeway, the rows and rows of white low-slung industrial buildings made up the housing for tens of thousands of pigs soon to be killed for products such as Farmer John sausage and “Dodger Dogs.” “It was otherworldly being out there that night,” Paul said.
Like the others in the small group, Paul donned sanitary protective clothing and covering for her shoes. She pulled on a head lamp.
The smell was overwhelming even before they opened the door to one of the barns. “It was like going in a dungeon that hasn’t been opened for years,” she said. “Looking there -- all the animals were in trouble, I just wanted to help them all,” she said.
According to Paul and the other investigators, the conditions there were ghastly: lame and injured piglets getting trampled to death; filth; feces; ammonia; animals cowering in terror, so afraid they were screeching and uncontrollably urinating and defecating on themselves. “They were climbing all over each other trying to get away from us,” she said. “They were so afraid of humans.”
Piglets are typically removed from their mothers at less than a month old in the industry. In the wild, pigs typically nurse for several months. They learn to recognize their mother’s voice almost immediately after birth. In sanctuaries and other protected settings, pigs, one of the smartest animals, learn to respond to their names at just two weeks.
At the Farmer John facility their mothers were nowhere to be seen or heard. With nobody looking after them, some of the smaller and sicker piglets were unable to get to the food and water in the crowded concrete pens. One little piglet was so weak and sick, he was unable to stand. He was getting trampled by the others. DxE investigators felt morally compelled to remove him to get him emergency veterinary care.
Paul bundles the little one up and carried him to the car so he could be transported to a veterinary hospital.
The actress said she had absolutely no fear going on the mission, although she understood the risks were real. “My emotions are not important,” she said. “Emotions can get in the way of being effective. What’s important is helping these animals.”
Paul, who has starred in over 75 films including the horror film “Christine” and the comedy “Dragnet,” has been an activist for years. She has participated in environmental and anti-war protests and actions. “I’ve been arrested for civil disobedience 12 times,” she said. “If I believe in something, [the risk] is worth it.”
Recently she has intensified her focus on the animal rights movement and educating people about over-population. “Somehow the anti-war movement and the environmental movement seemed abstract to me and removed,” she said. “I made a decision to try and eliminate suffering as much as I could. Animal suffering is right here and now.”
Paul has been a vegetarian since she was 14 and a vegan for the last six years. Her family always had a deep sense of social responsibility. “My family was always active – my mother [a staunch liberal Democrat] always gave blood, donated money and volunteered.
Paul said that as she became older she was surprised to find that many people aren’t interested in altruism and trying to make a difference. “When I got out on my own, I thought, ‘I can’t believe people don’t do that.’”
Actually, there are quite a few things Alexandra Paul does that most people don’t: a distance swimmer and a runner, she completed the Ironman Triathlon in Hawaii in the late ‘90s and continues to compete in distance swimming races.
While the Hormel investigation was a first for her, she has previously participated in a few “hunt sabotages” which were organized by her brother, also an animal rights activist.
Yet Paul, unlike many celebrities, is quick to point out it’s not about her: “My hope for the future is that we all become vegan. ...that factory farming is gone, that animals are treated with respect and are free to live their lives separate from our agendas.”
Leslie Goldberg is a lead investigator for the DxE investigatory team and former investigative reporter for the San Francisco Examiner. She was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. An artist, political cartoonist and writer, she holds a masters degree in interdisciplinary art from Goddard College.