“Babe” Actor James Cromwell Brings Dead Piglet Inside Utah Capitol Building to Protest Animal Cruelty
“A question of heart” following exposé of Smithfield pig farm
November 20, 2018, SALT LAKE CITY, UT – In a dramatic confrontation caught on Facebook livestream, nearly 200 activists with the grassroots animal rights network Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) entered the Utah State Capitol building Tuesday to demand action from the governor and attorney general in response to alleged animal cruelty at Smithfield’s Circle Four Farms in Milford, Utah. The demonstration was led by renowned actor James Cromwell, who turned vegan after starring in the 1995 film “Babe,” and Wayne Hsiung, DxE’s co-founder. Other speakers included three children who pleaded with officers and the company to release a single baby pig and a woman who suffered from a life-threatening MRSA infection, an antibiotic resistant pathogen commonly found on farms.
Hsiung is awaiting trial on felony charges brought by Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, including racketeering, punishable by up to 60 years in prison, for a 2017 investigation of Circle Four Farms.
Cromwell held a dead piglet recovered from a Utah farm by anonymous whistleblowers. With about ten police officers on site, he spoke passionately of compassion for animals outside and inside the building before approaching first the office of the attorney general and then Governor Gary Herbert’s office.
"It’s a question of heart. Do you have the heart and compassion to see this creature as something viable in this world? Like any other sentient being?” said Cromwell. “Because if we don’t deal with this appropriately, we’re not going to deal with each other appropriately.”
Despite the demonstration occurring during business hours, activists could hear the door to the attorney general’s office being locked from the inside as they approached it. As Cromwell and many Utah residents stood by, Hsiung knocked on the door and requested that someone come out for discussion, but his requests were ignored, and the door remained locked.
Ten other activists also held dead piglets, found at a Utah farm. The group then proceeded to the governor’s office, which was guarded by a pair of police officers. As activists gathered outside the office, Michael Mower, Gov. Herbert's Deputy Chief of Staff, came out and spoke to them. Mower acknowledged activists’ animal cruelty claims and said he would bring their concerns to the governor.
Cromwell characterized the exchange as “shotgunning” -- assuaging activist concerns with polite rhetoric, but without meaningful discussion or action. “(Governor Herbert) follows the whims of his donors,” said Cromwell.
Pulitzer-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald published an exposé in June in The Intercept revealing financial ties between Smithfield and DxE prosecutions -- including Smithfield’s support of both the Republican Attorneys General Association, or RAGA, as well as the Republican Governors Association, during Reyes’ and Herbert’s 2016 campaigns.
Following the demonstration, Cromwell and the activists drove to Circle Four Farms. They demanded that management open the doors to allow activists to inspect conditions and provide care to animals in need. At least ten police officers were waiting when activists arrived. Smithfield staff did not meet or communicate with the activists.
“We’re simply asking for a conversation around Smithfield’s stated values of transparency and being a so-called ‘leader in animal care,’” said Hsiung.
DxE’s work has been featured in The New York Times, ABC’s Nightline, and a viral Glenn Greenwald exposé, and DxE activists led the effort to ban fur products in San Francisco earlier this year. Activists have been subjected to FBI raids and felony prosecutions for investigatory work. Visit Direct Action Everywhere on Facebook and at directactioneverywhere.com. Follow us on Twitter @DxEverywhere.