“They dumped a live baby in a graveyard!” - Three Women Charged with Grand Theft after Police Seize Dying Calf from their Arms
Activists Say Repeated Animal Cruelty Reports at Massive Costco Supplier Ignored by Authorities
October 22, 2018, OAKDALE, CA – Three women were arrested Sunday on charges of felony grand theft and misdemeanor trespass at Ray-Mar Ranches, a California factory farm which supplies calves to Harris Ranch, and beef to Costco and In-N-Out Burger, for removing a living calf who had been dumped in a graveyard area of the facility.
The women, all volunteers for the grassroots animal rights network Direct Action Everywhere (DxE), were participating in a vigil to shine light on the abuse of mother cows and their babies in the dairy and beef industries. The women say that after their arrest they became victims of sexual harassment themselves; their arrest was captured on Facebook Live.
The women can be seen in the video documenting calves inside small hutches with floors of hard wooden slats -- illegal confinement in the state of California. The women then see the “graveyard” area of the farm -- where dead animals are typically piled -- and notice what they initially think is a dead calf. When the calf twitches, the shocked women attempt to help. They are seen weeping as they attempt to carry the calf to receive veterinary care before they are stopped by Sheriff’s deputies, who shove the women and take the calf out of their arms. As the women are arrested, the dying calf is left collapsed on the side of the road.
“I could not believe what they were doing to us and that poor baby,” one of the women, Priya Sawhney, a Sikh immigrant and human rights activist, said. “We asked them to help, and instead they assaulted and arrested us.”
The women say they were at the farm to document the commodification and sexual abuse of cows, including the use of rectal probes and forced artificial insemination on female cows. After birth, baby cows are taken from their mothers within hours. They are then forced into tiny wooden crates, which activists say is a clear violation of Proposition 2, the landmark animal welfare law passed in 2008. But instead of addressing the violations of law, Stanislaus County police charged the women with “grand theft” and subjected them to sexual harassment.
“When they shoved us down, my skirt was pulled up and shirt was pulled down. It exposed me,” Sawhney said. “They kept commenting on my clothes and body, but I couldn’t cover myself because I was handcuffed. I felt naked, but it helped me understand what these poor mother cows go through.”
Activists say this event is just the latest in a pattern of corporate and government misconduct in the face of animal cruelty. Activists have faced a series of felony charges across the country for attempting to alleviate animal suffering, including 58 activists charged with multiple felonies for attempting to give food and water to chickens from a Petaluma, CA farm on September 29. They cite the legal opinion of a criminal law scholar the UC Hastings College of Law establishing that citizens are legally justified in helping animals in need of immediate medical care.
“This is exactly like a dog in a hot car. A sick calf left for dead is of negative economic value to the farm,” DxE co-founder and former Northwestern law professor Wayne Hsiung said. “These unlawful arrests have nothing to do with the law and everything to do with protecting corporate profits by shielding consumers from the abuses at retailers like Costco.”
DxE is calling for government officials to take immediate action to provide transparency in the sale of meat and other animal products.
Activists have proposed legislation that would require signs be posted in stores and restaurants warning that the animal products sold there may come from factory farms where animals are mutilated and abused, may have been dosed with antibiotics or other drugs, and other relevant information such as the contribution animal agriculture makes to environmental pollution.
The “Right to Know” legislation has support among current and prospective legislators in Berkeley and San Francisco, where activists say it can help build a food system with integrity.
Activists 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, and DxE activists led the recent effort to ban fur products in San Francisco. Activists have been subjected to FBI raids and felony prosecutions for these investigations and rescues. Visit Direct Action Everywhere on Facebook and at directactioneverywhere.com. Follow us on Twitter @DxEverywhere.