Patrice Wagner

Published on:

December 26, 2023

Newcomer's Perspective

The Sonoma County Court's actions didn't stop me but, instead, spurred me to further action just as it did for many others.

As a relatively new member of DxE and new to taking direct actions for animals, I found myself astounded by Wayne Hsiung's willingness to forego his freedom to shine a light on the plight of factory farm animals. Since becoming a member in July, I had been active with DxE and tried to learn as much as I could about direct actions because, up to then, my involvement with animal activism had consisted of writing Letters to the Editor about animal abuse and participating in social media campaigns run by other non-profits. 

Leaving the safety of my home to actively protest or march alongside a crowd of people waving a sign was new territory for me. Even my professional life had been quiet in comparison; I had curated changing exhibits of painting, sculpture, and mixed media artwork in non-profit galleries throughout the Bay Area before I retired early due to worsening symptoms of multiple sclerosis. Political activism for animals was unchartered territory and had a steep learning curve for me.

When Wayne was found guilty November 2 in Sonoma County Superior Court on charges of trespass and conspiracy to trespass during actions that saved the lives of many animals, I imagined a loss of confidence would befall DxE and its members. Instead, I heard that business was going on as usual: signatures were still being collected at a good pace for the ballot initiative to ban factory farms in Sonoma County and meet-ups and chapter meetings continued as they had before. In fact, even open rescues continued. A few were released on the very day of Wayne's conviction showing me that rather than being demoralized, DxE followers were spurred on to more action.

In his writings from jail, Wayne repeated how much he wanted his actions and incarceration to uplift the movement. When I read this, it affected me deeply, reminding me of spiritual leaders who often speak of wisdom lessons we are "given" to help us evolve during times of great hardship. This appeared to be a challenging time indeed.

Just moments after Wayne's sentencing on November 30, three activists were suddenly arrested while marching with others to the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department to submit more evidence of animal cruelty. The sheriffs took the three away in handcuffs for many of us to see rather than simply mailing the arrest warrants to Conrad, Rocky, and Zoe. Again, I anticipated a bad outcome for the movement. But instead of fear, these three activists conveyed messages of willingness to give up their freedom in hopes of helping factory farm animals gain a life in the sunshine rather than in the deplorable conditions where they currently reside.

All four of these DxE members are now out of jail but not without harsh restrictions. Wayne is on probation for two years. As part of his probation, he is prohibited from seeing or communicating with fourteen close friends and colleagues from the movement and can't go on the property of Sonoma County factory farms. Zoe has been given pretrial release conditions including that she cannot enter any factory farm anywhere, she must wear a GPS ankle monitor, and she cannot physically possess any birds. Zoe has spent most of her lifetime helping birds and other animals, so the restrictions appeared unfortunate for birds in need and perhaps vengeful toward Zoe.

These restrictions seem to be more of an attempt to repress our work than to actually safeguard the animals or property of factory farms. For one thing, Wayne's role in DxE will have to change for the next two years and, secondly, Zoe is being directly prevented from aiding animals in desperate need of medical care.

On November 2, I was so unnerved by the guilty verdict that I had to do something. So I channeled my energy to write and submit a Letter to the Editor to the San Francisco Chronicle that was published the very next day; writing is my go-to activism because it helps me process reactions to challenging situations. The Sonoma County Court's actions didn't stop me but, instead, spurred me to further action just as it did for many others. In the coming months I look forward to seeing and hearing what else will materialize in hearts and minds to strengthen the resolve of those of us fighting to give animals a better life.