Stories to Inspire Part 2
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.
“Ventilation Shutdown” Whistleblower Lucas Walker Speaks Out!
The reality of what’s happening to animals can feel hopeless to overcome. Animal agriculture has corrupt politicians, loads of money, and hundreds of years of social normalcy on its side.
But there’s one advantage they’ll never have -- the power of people. People who stand up for animals -- not because it’s the easy route, or the lucrative one, but because it’s the right one. People from big cities and small towns, people of all political affiliations, and sometimes, even people within the industry itself.
People like Lucas Walker.
The former Iowa Select Farms truck driver was horrified at the way his employer treated pigs, and the way company leadership and law enforcement alike ignored the abuses. With no other options, Lucas turned to DxE.
What followed was a month-long team effort between Lucas and DxE, resulting in the exposing and ultimately ending of the company’s use of “ventilation shutdown” mass killing of pigs via heat and steam. It also resulted in the prosecution of DxE activists, and Lucas being interrogated by the FBI.
It takes a lot of courage to speak up when everything around you -- your job, community, and the culture you grew up in -- tells you to keep your head down. When people like Lucas come forward to stand with animals, we know momentum and history will be on our side.
Lucas will testify at DxE investigator Matt Johnson’s trial in Iowa later this month, in front of a courtroom packed with supporters wearing DxE’s signature blue t-shirts. Sign up here to join us for trial support in Iowa!
Only the Stolen Pig Survived
Across Korea, mainstream newspapers, magazines, and radio stations are talking about open rescue. Dozens of articles have been published and the activists behind the rescues are receiving requests for speaking engagements across the country. How did they accomplish this? They published a book.
Only the Stolen Pig Survived is the first book ever published in the DxE network. It recounts the rescue of a pig named Dawn and the creation of Dawn Sanctuary, the first sanctuary for farmed animals in Korea, and details the strategy and vision of open rescue. The book is being sold in big and small bookstores across the country, is being reviewed by mainstream book review programs, and is inspiring both veteran and new activists alike.
Traditionally, Korean mainstream media has been reluctant to cover cases of civil disobedience, but the medium of a book has proven to be very effective in breaking through those traditional barriers. And the title, meant to be a bit subversive, is forcing people to question whether Dawn was really “stolen” or if he was rescued.
The organizers have a plan to harness all this energy. Next month, they are opening a new animal rights center in Seoul, which will be a hub for strategizing, training, and outreach. And they have a big opportunity ahead of them: their legal case related to their 2019 slaughterhouse blockade is going to be reviewed by the Supreme Court of Korea! This is possibly the first time in East Asia, and perhaps in all of Asia, that activists who used civil disobedience to demand a set of rights for non-human animals will see their case reviewed in their country's highest court.
I couldn’t write a series of emails about inspiring stories without mentioning the incredibly smart, humble, and hardworking activists with DxE Korea. But they wanted me to share that they are not exceptional or extraordinary; they are just regular people who see and feel the immense suffering of this world and have committed themselves to the fight for justice. Everyone out there has the potential to contribute to this movement.
It’s completely understandable to feel hopeless or pessimistic at times, but stories like this remind me that the animal rights movement is growing and more and more people are stepping up to walk right into the heart of darkness and save lives.
Veterinarian takes the stand against animal agriculture
“Being an expert veterinary witness is a lot like being an anesthesiologist: 99% boredom and 1% terror.” That’s what Dr. Sherstin Rosenberg shared with me when I asked her about her experience testifying in a court of law as an expert witness. “I spend an embarrassingly large amount of time gathering details about the animals in question: reviewing video footage, medical records, receipts, talking to caretakers if relevant, and establishing a timeline. I am meticulous about the details, reviewing and re-reviewing evidence again and again.”
This command of the facts has been critical for DxE, since Dr. Rosenberg has now been admitted as an expert witness in three of our court cases, with more to come. When the other side throws out distortions or untruths about the way animals are treated or what they experience at the hands of animal agriculture, she is there to correct the record.
The 1% terror? “That’s the getting up on the stand,” says Dr. Rosenberg. “I have to be ready for anything that gets thrown at me on cross-examination.” And trust me, those prosecutors can be intimidating. But Dr. Rosenberg says she has now come to enjoy this part, despite never thinking in a million years that this is where her career would take her. She never imagined she’d be the resident veterinarian at one of California’s largest farmed animal sanctuaries, either.
After graduating from UC Davis, Dr. Roserberg took the fairly traditional route of caring for dogs and cats. When her daughter, DxE organizer Zoe Rosenberg, started rescuing chickens at the age of 11 and founded Happy Hen Animal Rescue, Dr. Rosenberg came along for the ride. Now, Happy Hen has rescued over 1,200 animals! Together, she and Zoe have nursed many of them back to health from the brink of death.
It’s ironic that it is such an anomaly that a veterinarian would speak up for and care so deeply about the individual lives of “farmed” animals. The reality is that the veterinary industry does not take kindly to those who question animal agriculture, sometimes even denying them entry into veterinary school. This has led to very few veterinarians who are willing to speak up to corporate power and work together with the animal rights movement.
But that is changing. Dr. Rosenberg and other veterinarians, including DxE organizer Dr. Crystal Heath, are banding together to transform their profession. Dr. Heath founded Our Honor to organize veterinary professionals to formally challenge unethical institutionalized systems, and they have begun pressuring the American Veterinary Medical Association to do better for animals. They remind us to not accept injustice, simply because “it’s always been done that way.”