Cassie King

Published on:

September 18, 2022

The History and Future of Rose’s Law: Animal Bill of Rights

Rose was the sole survivor of all the birds at McCoy’s that day, and amid the tragedy that occurred for the others, Rose’s story offered a glimmer of hope. The fact that her rescue was permitted was proof that they all deserved to be rescued, that even the police knew rescuing them was the right thing to do.

September 29th, 2018 is a day I’ll remember forever. It’s a day that has had profound impacts on my life, and on the animal rights movement around the world. It’s also the day that everything changed for Rose.

Rose was a hen who was collapsed inside an organic chicken farm in Petaluma, a city in Sonoma County, California when DxE investigators found her. The farm was called McCoy’s Poultry Services and was a contract grower for Petaluma Poultry. Whistleblowers had found evidence of animal cruelty inside the farm, including birds collapsed on their backs unable to get to food or water, and they alerted the authorities. After animal control and others refused to address the animal cruelty, activists decided the only recourse was to enter and help the neglected animals directly.

So on that day, over 100 activists converged at the facility to provide aid to the suffering animals.

​Activists documented dozens of dead birds inside the barns, and took some of these birds out to show the media and bring the abuse to the attention of the authorities. Some of these deceased individuals had clearly been dead for days.

Other activists identified sick and injured birds and took them out to get emergency medical care. 

Tragically, the police who arrived on site blocked activists from leaving the facility, stalling until reinforcement arrived.

We cried and pleaded to let the birds go in one of the cars that was ready to take birds to get veterinary care. It started raining. We kept pleading. 

After close to an hour in this emotional standoff, one officer - a woman named Mechelle Buchignani, finally broke the protocols and told us, “Okay, you can take the sickest bird out.”

We didn’t know in that moment that this one decision, a single sergeant showing compassion, would inspire a global movement for an animal bill of rights. We looked at all the birds activists were holding, individuals who couldn’t walk, who were open mouth breathing, and struggling to keep their eyes open. They were all sick. But the group decided on one hen who looked like she was on death’s doorstep. One activist was allowed to carry her to a waiting car -- and that’s how Rose escaped. 

When the rest of the police arrived, they arrested all 58 people on the property on multiple felony charges, including people who were simply there to document the peaceful action. In the process, the police tore the remaining birds from activists’ arms and sent them off to animal control, telling us the birds would be examined. 

They zip-tied our hands together behind our backs and loaded us into a paddywagon to bring us to jail. Sergeant Buchignani walked me to the vehicle. I was crying and I remember saying “They’re going to kill all the birds. I know they’re going kill them because they’re chickens and they don’t care about them.” She told me I was wrong, that they wouldn’t kill them. The birds would go to a vet to examine them.

Later at the jail, Sergeant Buchignani came and found me to tell me that she had followed up with Animal Control and the chickens were at the vet. Suddenly, I had hope that maybe the birds were going to get treated. But while I was sitting in jail for 3 nights on $20,000 bail, the 9 birds taken by Sonoma County Animal Services were all being examined and killed. This excerpt from the Animal Services report is representative of the way the birds were described and their death sentences were dolled out. 

To Sonoma County, these birds were untreatable. But we know that wasn’t true because the “sickest” one, Rose, survived for over a year after her rescue. She was unable to walk, but her family at Happy Hen Animal Sanctuary gave her individualized care and made sure she had a good life. Zoe even took her out to restaurants and watched movies and shared popcorn with her.

Rose was the sole survivor of all the birds at McCoy’s that day, and amid the tragedy that occurred for the others, Rose’s story offered a glimmer of hope. The fact that her rescue was permitted was proof that they all deserved to be rescued, that even the police knew rescuing them was the right thing to do.

I reached out to Sergeant Buchignani some months after the incident, asking her if she would be open to meeting. I sent her a recent photo of Rose and me.

She responded, declining to meet: “Although I am sure that we would find some common ground, I’m not in a position to meet with you at this time.” But she also wrote: “Please be assured my encounter with you and Rose had an impact on me and I learned a great deal that day. The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office is bound by the law. It seems to me that in order to effect change, the laws would have to change. Perhaps a legislative approach would be more fruitful.”

Ms. Buchignani isn’t the only person who was impacted by Rose’s story. People all over the world heard it and were moved. In Rose’s honor, inspired by this story of hope amidst despair, a global campaign was born calling for Rose’s Law, an Animal Bill of Rights. 

In its current form, this proposed Bill of Rights includes 5 fundamental rights that all animals deserve:

The right to be free - not owned - or to have a guardian acting in their best interest.

The right to not be exploited, abused, or killed by humans.

The right to have their interests represented in court and protected by the law.

The right to a protected home, habitat, or ecosystem.

The right to be rescued from situations of distress and exploitation.

In 2019, on the one-year anniversary of Rose’s rescue, people all over the world participated in a global week of action for Rose’s Law, in some cases locking down at their government buildings or at slaughterhouses. 

This press story shows the San Diego action and highlights others around the world.

Despite the pandemic, Rose’s Law Week of Action has continued in 2020, 2021 and in 2022 (happening later this month).

Here are some photos from Rose’s Law actions:

South Korea
South Korea

We’ve built a full campaign around the Right to Rescue tenet of Rose’s Law because we see that as a key stepping stone along the path to a full bill of rights for animals. We have several ongoing animal rescue prosecutions that can bring attention to the rights that animals deserve, one of them being our case in Sonoma.

It wasn’t long after the action at McCoy’s that I received a letter in the mail telling me I’m being charged with 7 felonies for this action and a previous, peaceful action at a different farm in Sonoma earlier in the year. Following another action in the county, at Reichardt Duck Farm, the prosecutor amended the complaint against me and most of my co-defendants to add another felony conspiracy charge. We see this case as an opportunity to tell Rose’s story, to expose the public to what is happening to animals behind closed doors in their backyard, and to build support for animal rescue and animal rights. And we have undeniable evidence on our side, including not just our own livestreams of all three DxE mass actions at factory farms in Sonoma, but also the report from Sonoma County’s own animal services department that refers McCoy’s as a suspect of animal cruelty. 

So it’s no surprise that the prosecutor, Deputy District Attorney Bob Waner, recently announced he would be dropping the charges from the McCoy’s action specifically. He probably doesn’t want the jury to see that evidence. 

But there are many people willing to elevate these abuses through nonviolent, direct action. And we’re going to keep telling Rose’s story to the world. 

So what does the future of the Rose’s Law campaign look like?

In DxE, Rose’s Law is the endpoint of our roadmap to animal liberation in the US. We know it’s a decades-long campaign, but we do actions for Rose’s Law now because we believe it’s important to ask for what we really want, what animals truly deserve. As we continue taking action for Rose’s Law over the coming years, the vision will slowly become the reality. We are naming what animals deserve, we are getting the public, media, and legislators hearing about it, and we are moving the endpoint closer by bringing it into the public consciousness today. 

The 2022 Rose’s Law Week of Action is happening Sept. 24 - Oct. 2. There are two actions happening that week in the Bay Area. Check to see all our upcoming events, and keep an eye on social media for livestreams of Rose’s Law actions around the world all week long.