Cassie King
Published on
March 29, 2020

Following Bernie Sanders campaign’s disavowal, charges against topless anti-dairy protesters dropped

  Rachel Ziegler (center) disrupting Bernie Sanders’ speech (Credit: Direct Action Everywhere)
Rachel Ziegler (center) disrupting Bernie Sanders’ speech (Credit: Direct Action Everywhere)

MARCH 27, CARSON CITY, NV - Prosecutors have declined to pursue charges against three women following a high-profile topless protest at a Nevada Bernie Sanders rally last month. The Sanders campaign came out against the prosecution in a story covered by The Intercept. The women -- activists with the animal rights network Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) -- say that while the development comes as a relief, they remain far from satisfied with the Sanders campaign.

“We appreciate Bernie doing the right thing regarding these sexist prosecutions,” said protester Rachel Ziegler, who separately faces eight felony charges after exposing criminal animal abuse and rescuing dying animals from California factory farms.

“But Bernie, like other politicians, continues to prop up the dairy industry -- an industry which breeds drug-resistant infectious pathogens, tortures billions of animals, and exacerbates climate change -- then tries to throw whistleblowers like me in prison for exposing the truth,” said Ziegler. “Bernie’s own stated values demand that he stand with whistleblowers, animals and the American people -- which means standing against the dairy industry.”

The February demonstration was part of DxE’s “Let Dairy Die” campaign, a campaign which also grabbed headlines for a protest at Joe Biden’s Super Tuesday speech.

In conjunction with the “Let Dairy Die” campaign, DxE released its investigation of Vermont Ben & Jerry’s dairy farms. Activists found piles of dead mothers and babies and baby calves isolated in small hutches, exposed to snowfall and below zero wind chills, without food and water. Activists cite a veterinary opinion indicating that this reality falls well short of the animal welfare standards set forth by the Sanders campaign.

With the dairy industry in steady decline, DxE is calling on Sanders to end his decades-long legislative history of protecting the dairy industry, citing animal welfare concerns and the preponderance of plant-based alternatives. While Sanders has shifted to criticizing factory farming giants during the 2020 campaign, the dairy industry remains notably absent from his condemnation. On the contrary, Sanders has a pro-dairy history, including personally writing an amendment into a 2009 ag appropriations bill to give dairy $350 million in corporate welfare. Sanders also supported the 2018 Farm Bill, which approved over $100 billion in subsidies while rejecting activist requests to prevent handouts to millionaires and billionaires.

“I love Bernie, but we must hold abusive industries accountable, not shield and subsidize them. Animal farming is an industry which gives welfare payments to millionaires,” said LDD campaign organizer Priya Sawhney. “People are fed up. Like the Sanders campaign itself, animal rights is a burgeoning mass movement.”

Activists say Sanders is just one prominent example of the corrupting political influence of the dairy industry:

  • Mega-cooperative Dairy Farmers of America, which ostensibly exists to support dairy farmers, has instead paid out tens of millions in class action lawsuit settlements to its own member farmers in 2012 and 2018. St. Albans Cooperative Creamery in Sanders’ native Vermont was recently forced to merge with the DFA.
  • Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin, a top recipient of DFA campaign contributions, sponsored the Dairy Pride Act, which seeks to ban words like “milk” and “butter” in labelling dairy alternatives like soy milk. (Elizabeth Warren was a surprising 2018 sponsor of the Dairy Pride Act.)
  • Like Sanders, former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has exempted dairy from his Big Ag antitrust critiques since becoming CEO and President of U.S. Dairy Export Council, where he earns upwards of a million dollars a year.
Investigators 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. Visit Direct Action Everywhere on Facebook and at  Follow DxE on Twitter @DxEverywhere.

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