Inspiring Stories from 2022, Part 3
DxE Korea is unstoppable; disrupting the NBA playoffs gets people talking (and not just about sports); and a landmark verdict for the Right to Rescue
DxE Korea Kicks into High Gear
In last year’s “Stories to Inspire” countdown, I shared with you DxE Korea’s exciting announcement that they were planning to open an animal rights center in Seoul as a hub for strategizing, training, and outreach. This year, I am happy to let you know that they succeeded! In March 2022, the Seoul Animal Rights Center opened in the heart of South Korea’s capital. Its opening has enabled DxE Korea to advance its concrete goals and enhanced the sense of solidarity and purpose among the members.
Quite wisely, the veteran activists at DxE Korea have spent much of 2022 strengthening the structure of their chapter by holding events, such as meetings to study and translate important source material, seminars on movement building, and workshops on reconciliation and conflict-resolution. They also celebrate birthday parties, enjoy having lunches and dinners together, decorate the center with photos from previous actions and artwork by the activists, and, last but not least, make sure their new space remains spotlessly clean - all essential to creating community and keeping it strong!
DxE organizers have been excited to see the members choose the center as a favorite place to hang out with friends. They consider this organic development to be a promising sign that the center has the potential to function as a hub for Seoul’s animal rights activists. Valuing inclusivity and solidarity, the organizers have welcomed the staff and volunteers of Dawn Sanctuary to use the space for their off-site work. As you may remember, Dawn Sanctuary is the first animal sanctuary in Korea, which was founded in 2019, after DxE activists rescued Dawn, by now the most famous pig in South Korea.
In addition to foundation-building, the creative and indefatigable DxE veterans also worked out the details of the 2022 Rose’s Law Week of Action at the center. Their contribution to the week of action, a hundreds-strong march in Seoul’s Gangnam district, included speeches and songs of solidarity by grassroots social justice groups, a banner drop over a major highway overpass to draw attention to the rights inscribed in Rose’s Law, and a massive “die-in” in front of Korea’s Supreme Court, where DxE Korea has a legal case for review. I was blow away by how many people showed up to the march and how great the entire event looked! I wish I could have been there.
DxE Korea has lots of plans for outreach events in the coming year, including casual meetups, the classic "Why DxE" training, and seminars for the public about the vital work of animal rights advocacy and direct action. All of this work is greatly benefitted by the Seoul Animal Rights Center.
I end with expressing my admiration for the inspiring work DxE Korea has accomplished in such a short span of time. That is why, despite the immense obstacles in front of us, I remain hopeful about the prospects for animal rights activists to bring about the liberation of animals in the not-too-distant future.
We Aren't Playing: Activists Teach Sports Fans about Factory Farm Atrocities
They say good things come in threes and today’s story involves three epic disruptions that managed to insert a message of animal rights into a very unlikely place: the NBA playoffs.
It begins with the awful avian flu epidemic that happened this year. In industrial farms, if even one bird tests positive, the farm kills every animal on site. That happened over and over again across the country. A particularly horrific “culling” occurred in April at Rembrandt Farms, an egg farm in Iowa that housed 5.3 million chickens. There are more chickens at this farm - all of whom were brutally killed via “ventilation shutdown” (VSD) - than there are humans in the state of Iowa. DxE investigators rushed to the site to document the aftermath of the killing (link to video). We released the footage, but besides one story in a local paper, no one seemed to really care. So much devastation and no national media attention. At DxE, we’ve learned that if the cameras don’t come to you, you have to go where the cameras are...
It was almost perfect timing because the NBA playoffs were just about the start and it so happens that the owner of this egg farm, Glen Taylor, is also the owner of the Minnesota Timberwolves. So wearing a t-shirt that read GLEN TAYLOR ROASTS ANIMALS ALIVE, DxE activist Alicia Santurio walked right down onto the court in the middle of a game, glued her hand to the floor, and #GlueGirl went viral. The press was finally starting to pay attention.
Days later, DxE activist Zoe Rosenberg chained her neck to the hoop, prompting another wave of press. By now, the fans were asking us to disrupt and wondering what we would do at the next game. Pulling off these disruptions got increasingly difficult. Whereas Alicia could just walk right onto the court, the third disruptor, Sasha Zemmel, essentially had a personal body guard watching her every move. This was actually after a failed attempt at a prior game when DxE activist Matt Johnson got tackled and arrested before even making it onto the court. Sasha, on the other hand, just managed to disrupt the game, trying to pose as a referee to “eject” Glen Taylor from his courtside seats. After she was tackled to the ground she was taken into a holding room inside the stadium and saw that the walls had been lined with pictures of DxE activists for security to study and look for!
After this third successful disruption, the press coverage became significantly more substantive. The stories weren’t just about sensational sports protests; they talked about the issue of avian flu, and VSD, and factory farming, and how protests are never popular, but they’re often right. Since this campaign, federal bills related to “depopulation” have been introduced by Senator Cory Booker and Representative Pramila Jayapal. Of course this was not just because of us - so many organizations rallied around the issue of VSD and took action in response to avian flu - but we’re proud to have been able to capture some of this footage and bring the issue to the masses.
Ending the practice of VSD is far from our end goal. There is no humane way to kill someone who does not want to die, and we will continue taking bold action for animals until the systems that allow these atrocities to occur are replaced with ones of compassion and justice.
The Right to Rescue Is Upheld in Court
This October, in a Utah courtroom, we won the first-ever acquittal for open rescue in history. An eight-person jury declared DxE investigators Wayne Hsiung and Paul Darwin Picklesimer innocent on charges of burglary and theft for investigating Smithfield’s massive Circle Four Farms and rescuing two little piglets, Lily and Lizzie, from inside.
I could watch the footage of the verdict being read over and over and still get chills every time.
Our team went up against the largest “pork” producer in the world, the FBI, and the state of Utah... and won! It wasn’t easy by any stretch. The months leading up to trial were incredibly stressful. The judge on the case ruled against us on essentially all our pre-trial motions, severely restricting what footage from the investigation could be shown to the jurors, which media outlets would be granted access, and who would be allowed inside the courtroom. And while ultimately a very good thing, the dates and location of the entire trial were changed less than one month before the scheduled start date, leaving us to adjust all our plans on short notice. It is because of our incredible team - which includes you - that we were able to fight through these challenges and defeat this prosecution.
Winning the Smithfield Trial was historic in its own right, and it has already spurred on other victories and developments in the movement, including:
- The launch of the Animal Activist Defense Project, a brand-new law clinic dedicated to representing animal rights activists facing legal repression
- A first-of-its-kind Trial Summit, featuring a panel of the jurors from the trial so the public can finally hear directly from them on why they voted to acquit
- Unity and camaraderie in the movement, as many organizations celebrated this achievement together
I am also inspired by recent open rescues around the world, including the rescue of 18 beagles by Animal Rebellion in the UK and the rescue of 35 chicks by Meat the Victims in Israel. Open rescue truly is anti-speciesism in action. Through rescue, not only do we directly save lives, we enact the world we want to see and challenge the notion that animals are property. So here’s to many more rescues in 2023.
Along with more rescues, more trials will come. I am one of the people who could find my fate left in the hands of a jury next year, as I am facing seven felony charges for mass daylight open rescues in California. Your support means so much to me personally and I know the feeling is shared by my co-defendants and by the rest of the DxE network, too. You help bring to life our shared vision of a world where all animals are safe, happy, and free.