Cassie King

Published on:

March 24, 2020

Animal Rights Activists Protest at CA State Capitol to “Cancel Animal Ag”

  Chinese American activist Rocky Chau speaks at Tuesday’s protest
Chinese American activist Rocky Chau speaks at Tuesday’s protest

March 23, 2020, SACRAMENTO, CA - As seen on Facebook livestream, activists with the animal rights network Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) protested outside the California state Capitol building Tuesday. Wearing protective masks and gloves, the activists stretched CAUTION tape around pillars of the building, displayed “CANCEL ANIMAL AG” banners and placards, and delivered speeches.

In consideration of the risk of infection, they followed similar protocols to the veterinarian-approved biosecurity measures deployed for their work investigating industrial factory farms. They showered prior to the demonstration and practiced six-foot social distancing during it. DxE recently launched a social media campaign using the hashtag #CancelAnimalAg, including a Facebook profile photo frame used by thousands in multiple languages around the world, which calls for “Social distancing to slow COVID-19 -- Cancel animal ag to stop the next pandemic before it starts.”

DxE hopes this campaign emulates the widespread media attention (1) (2) (3) of its “Let Dairy Die” protests at political rallies for Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren over the past two months.

DxE says it appreciates Governor Newsom’s rapid and decisive response in controlling the spread of COVID-19, but they call on him to go a step further by proactively preventing future pandemic outbreaks. The #CancelAnimalAg campaign aims to highlight not only the existential threat posed by animal ag, but also the unwillingness of government officials like California Governor Gavin Newsom and President Trump to even acknowledge the link between animal agriculture and pandemic disease -- much less take action to mitigate the threat. They have published a policy memorandum with their legislative proposals, and have submitted it to Governor Newsom’s office.

COVID-19, like SARS, the Spanish Flu, and many other outbreaks before it, is a zoonotic pathogen -- meaning it is transmitted between to humans from (usually closely-confined) animals. Factory farms are ideal settings to breed pandemic disease, with animals crowded together by the tens of thousands, surrounded by feces and urine which makes them highly susceptible to viral and bacterial infections. Furthermore, scientists agree that the use of antibiotics in livestock -- accounting for over 60% of the total antibiotic use in this country -- contributes significantly to the problem of drug resistance. This resistance, in turn, fuels the growth of antibiotic-resistant pathogens, a risk the World Health Organization says poses one of the biggest threats to global health, food security, and development today, which could kill 10 million people every year by 2050.

But, activists say, government officials have utterly failed to counter this threat. Not only are farms not required to disclose the amount of antibiotic drugs they use, federal inspectors are barred from making spot checks on farms to determine the prevalence of antibiotic-resistant diseases -- a problem DxE investigators have seen firsthand. This means there is virtually no government oversight over an industry which activists say threatens all life on Earth.

Despite the COVID-19 outbreak, DxE says its investigations inside California factory farms are ongoing, where activists are documenting the crowded and filthy conditions where pathogens thrive, and collecting samples for testing.

“We commend Governor Newsom for taking the drastic steps necessary to mitigate the impact of COVID-19, but what about the next pandemic, which could be 100 times worse? These farms are Petri dishes for pandemic disease, and an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” said Priya Sawhney, the demonstration organizer. “But Governor Newsom -- who has received over a half-million dollars in campaign contributions from the ag sector -- has nothing to say, much less do, about the root cause of this crisis..”

Arguably violating Governor Newsom’s statewide shelter-in-place order, demonstrators contend that the protest is not just morally but legally-justified -- citing the necessity defense successfully invoked by climate activists, among others. (The necessity defense eliminates liability of would-be criminal conduct committed as a last-resort to prevent a greater harm.)

“The Governor's shelter-in-place order rightfully exempts ‘critical infrastructure,’” said Sawhney. “And with our current course accelerating us towards inevitable destruction, free expression is critical infrastructure for preserving life as we know it. Animal agriculture, on the other hand, is infrastructure which we critically need to end -- yet ironically it’s one of the carve-outs under Governor Newsom’s order, enabling the pandemic-brewing to persist as rapidly as ever.”

DxE says Newsom is just one prominent example of the corrupting political influence of the animal agriculture industry, which it says not only undermines public health, but systematically tortures tens of billions of animals every year, and has been cited as a major contributor to climate change. Ordinary Californians, the activists say, don’t support the devastating impact of animal ag, but have been deceived by large corporations with the complicity of politicians such as Newsom.

Investigators with Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) enter farms, slaughterhouses, and other agricultural facilities to document abuses and rescue sick and injured animals. DxE’s investigatory work has been featured in The New York Times, ABC Nightline, and a viral Glenn Greenwald exposé. Visit Direct Action Everywhere on Facebook and at  Follow DxE on Twitter @DxEverywhere.