VERNON, Calif. (CNS)—Seven animal rights activists were cited for trespassing while trying to rescue a pig from the Farmer John slaughterhouse in Vernon, police said on Sept. 26.
Police received a call at about 4 a.m. on Sept. 25 from officials at Smithfield Foods—owner of Farmer John—to report that some trespassers were on the premises at 3049 E. Vernon Ave., according to Vernon Police Sgt. Daniel Onopa.
“Two subjects were determined to be inside the livestock yard and five subjects fled on foot,” Onopa said.
“They [the five subjects] were then detained by officers nearby. Due to the pandemic, they were cited at the scene and released.”
The activist group DXE Los Angeles—which planned to host a 48-hour vigil in front of the slaughterhouse beginning Sept. 27—posted a video on its Facebook page showing activists wearing hardhats inside the facility.
The group places a pig on a gurney and attempts to leave, but police are shown outside and a voice is heard saying, “They’re locking the doors, guys.”
It was unclear how the activists gained entry to the plant.
“I don’t know the exact details about that,” Onopa said. “There’s still pending, further investigation that I can’t comment on.”
Matt Johnson, spokesman for Direct Action Everywhere, said the group was unable to rescue the pig. The seven activists involved in the action were identified as Emek Echo, Lewis Bernier, Alicia Santurio, Rachel Hosler, Zoe Rosenberg, Robert Franklin, and Alexandra Paul. Paul is an actress best known for a starring role in the 1983 horror film “Christine” and a role on the TV series “Baywatch” from 1992–1997.
“Smithfield will do anything to keep making money, from torturing pigs to endangering its workers’ lives,” she said. “We took nonviolent direct action because lives are at stake.”
The company responded on Sept. 25 with the following statement: “A Smithfield facility in Vernon, Calif., was recently targeted by an extremist animal rights group that has no regard for the law. In this instance, after a criminal break-in, the activists endangered the safety of personnel and violated standards of animal care.
“These tactics are aimed at forcing a vegan agenda on Americans in a smear campaign that disregards facts, relies on a false narrative and promotes a slanted agenda aimed at eradicating animal agriculture. This criminal behavior is despicable.”
The activist group said the seven entrants managed to retrieve a hidden camera previously planted in the facility with 81 hours of footage of the slaughter line, “the first time public footage has been obtained from inside the slaughterhouse.”
Thousands of pigs are trucked into the facility each day, where they are slaughtered for use in Dodger Dogs, as well as the ham, bacon, sausage, and hot dogs sold under the Farmer John label.
A DXE-led coalition of dozens of organizations are calling on California Gov. Gavin Newsom to issue an executive order prohibiting the construction of new factory farms and slaughterhouses in the state.
Organizers said on Sept. 26 that they expected “dozens” of arrests at the Sept. 27 vigil.
Earlier this year, the Farmer John slaughterhouse experienced a large COVID-19 outbreak in which 153 workers tested positive for the disease.
In May, the union that represents some 1,300 Farmer John employees called for an immediate closure of the plant.
“Working conditions inside the plant are similar to what we are seeing nationwide in Smithfield plants,” said John Grant, president of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 770.
“Workers are still too close together on the line, in the breakroom, the bathrooms, and other such hubs. Smithfield has not provided full information about what is really going on inside the Vernon plant.
“Without information we cannot make an informed decision about workers’ health and safety. Therefore, we are calling for Smithfield to continue paying workers while they close the plant for a complete and thorough investigation and cleaning and to ensure the company is complying with Cal/OSHA and Department of Public Health guidance.”
Virginia-based Smithfield Foods said it had implemented stringent new health protocols to protect against the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus.
“Our Smithfield family members are crucial to our nation’s response to COVID-19. We thank them for keeping food on America’s tables, and have implemented aggressive measures to protect their health and safety during this pandemic,” the company said in a statement.