Stories to Inspire Part 3
These stories first appeared in a series of emails sent to DxE supporters in a countdown to 2022. The stories recap some of our biggest achievements in 2021, and also shine a light on some of the little details that don’t usually get the appreciation they deserve. We hope you find them as inspiring as we do.
How we got Berkeley City Council to commit to going plant-based
In July, the Berkeley City Council unanimously passed a resolution to transition 100% of city food purchases away from animal products and towards plant-based foods. While the timeline for the 100% goal is yet to be determined - the Council must report back on that in mid-2022 - getting the goal of 100% in the resolution was extremely important to us. (For more on that, check out this blog post on symbolic victories.) But it almost didn’t happen. Until the evening of the day before the vote, the resolution was only for 50%, not 100%.
This campaign was a lot harder than I thought it would be. We got essentially nowhere with months of polite emails, phone calls, postcards, and public comment. It wasn’t until we started doing disruptive protests that we received a response from the Mayor and had our first meeting. And then it wasn’t until we did two months of consecutive protests outside his home - including a sleepover protest where we camped out on his sidewalk - that the resolution got on the City Council agenda. So when we saw that the initial draft was for 50%, we didn’t know what to do. Should we just accept it and move on, or should we keep fighting?
What we needed was a “friendly face” who could talk with the Mayor and serve as an intermediary between us and him to get that 100% in there. Luckily for us, we had an amazing coalition partner on board. Because they were liked by the Council already, they were well-suited to help pass messages back and forth. It truly felt like I was in a movie - negotiating back and forth the night before the vote, tensely waiting for each reply. At 8pm, we finally got the “Looks like we have a deal!” message and the rest is history!
In order to make significant progress, you almost always need a disruptive “radical flank”; politicians and corporations rarely change without pressure. Unsurprisingly though, these tactics make it hard to be particularly well-liked by the institutions you’re trying to change. That’s why it’s so important that there are different organizations taking different approaches. And while I think DxE serves an undervalued and underutilized role in the movement, I know we will need the whole “movement ecology” to win.
This year, we’ve really focused on our coalition-building efforts, both inside and outside the animal rights movement. Because of those efforts, Berkeley passed this bold resolution, DxE is now a part of the Bay Area climate justice spokescouncil, local environmental organizations are including animal rights messaging and chants in their actions, and dozens of organizations have signed on to our No More Factory Farms campaign, including Sunrise Bay Area, the California Democratic Environmental Caucus Animal Ag Committee, PETA, Mercy for Animals, and The Humane League.
There is so much work to be done in the world: so many issues to tackle, so many campaigns to plan, and so many strategies and tactics to use. I’m glad we’re all out there fighting for justice, and I’m also glad that we can join forces when the time is right. What would you love to see the animal rights movement collaborate on in 2022?
Jax was rescued from a slaughter truck in broad daylight
My friend and co-organizer Alicia is so brave. And so is Jax, the chicken she rescued from a transport truck right outside the Foster Farms slaughterhouse in Livingston, California.
When he was just six weeks old, Jax was grabbed from the floor of a barn, crammed into a crate with two dozen other chickens, and put on a truck with nine other crates full of birds stacked on top of him. He was going to be driven into the slaughterhouse, dumped violently onto a conveyor belt, and then plunged into an electrified water bath before having his throat slit. And the company that was going to do this would have called it humane.
But Alicia had other plans. Hundreds of activists were gathering outside this very slaughterhouse and a dozen had set up a blockade at the main entrance to bring attention to the cruelty at Foster Farms. Alicia and her team were waiting nearby for a truck to get held up outside to see if they could save a life. They waited and waited and finally saw a truck coming. Right at the same time, though, they saw the police coming, too.
For a moment, it looked like their plans might be foiled. Alicia hoped that her instincts were right and that the police would be distracted by the blockade. Luckily, they were. The police drove towards all the commotion, leaving Alicia and her co-rescuer Alexandra to run right up to the truck and pull two chickens out to safety. One of them was Jax.
I often think about what individuals like Jax must be thinking and feeling as they are being liberated. Are they scared, imagining that something even worse is about to happen? When do they realize they are now safe? We’ll never know for sure, but what we do know is that Jax is alive and doing well. Like most other chickens bred for their flesh, Jax struggles to move around because of how big and heavy he is, but that hasn’t stopped him. He lives at a sanctuary with other chicken friends, as well as human, pig, goat, and turkey friends. He gets to eat fruit, feel the sun, and sleep safely at night. His death date was planned for him before he was even born, but because of activists in the DxE network and his own resilience and courage, he is now free.
“Industry Foe” Matt Johnson and Gilly the piglet are taking animal ag to trial
The odds were stacked thoroughly against Gilly, literally from the day she was born. As tragic as the life of a typical pig in a factory farm is, it was considerably worse in the spring of 2020.
As society came to grips with the new reality of a global pandemic, the brutal, profit-driven engine that is animal agriculture chugged ever forward. Slaughterhouse outbreaks spread like wildfire in unsanitary, close-quarter working environments. Infected workers were swiftly replaced by others, until eventually, there simply weren’t enough people healthy and desperate enough to maintain business-as-usual.
They had nowhere to send the pigs.
By now, you’ve probably heard about the brutal reality of “ventilation shutdown” faced by hundreds of thousands of “market-ready” pigs across the country. What you may not be aware of is how the supply chain disruptions impacted the smallest of victims. Under normal circumstances, piglets with a certain severity of illness or injuries are routinely killed, their market value not justifying the cost of their care. In May 2020, with the toll of COVID-19 peaking, the situation was even more grim. At Iowa Select Farms, piglets who were not “perfect” - showing any indication of a minor infection, injured leg, or really any ailment at all - were to be killed with a zephyr gun that would send a bolt to their head.
When DxE investigators Linda Cridge and Matt Johnson found Gilly, she had a fever, wounds on her legs, and a facial infection later determined to be Streptococcus bacteria.
She would have never stood a chance. So we rescued her.
Courageous DxE investigators, supported by thousands of people like you, carried her out of that hellhole, got her to the vet, and brought her to her forever sanctuary home. For a few weeks it looked like she might not make it, but she pulled through and is doing well today.
In return, Matt and Linda were charged with felony burglary.
With Matt’s trial less than three weeks away, Gilly stands as an ambassador of both the barbaric reality of the world as it is, and a ray of hope for what it can become. The people of Iowa will soon decide if rescuing animals is a crime, or simply the right thing to do. And as we prepare for our first trial of 2022, I am grateful that you are there with us along the way.
These stories first appeared in a series of emails sent to DxE supporters in a countdown to 2022. If you feel inspired reading them and want to let us know or get more involved, you can contact us here.