Animal Rights Activists Await Verdict in Smithfield Piglet Case

Animal Rights Activists Await Verdict in Smithfield Piglet Case

“The agonizing screams of pigs confined to these cages were so loud we couldn’t hear each other talk,” Mr. Hsiung said. The two piglets they took on their way out, he said, were sick and malnourished and would have most likely ended up in a dumpster.

Jim Monroe, a Smithfield spokesman, said the company had largely phased out the use of gestation crates and was committed to improving the welfare of the tens of millions of pigs it raised each year. “Any deviation from our high standards for animal care is counterproductive to this mission,” he said in an email.

Richard Piatt, a spokesman for Sean Reyes, the Utah attorney general, said the defendants had invited prosecution by publicly posting evidence of a crime. “Prosecutors feel there’s an obligation to acknowledge there was a burglary and theft,” he said.

Indeed, Mr. Hsiung, a lawyer and a founder of DxE, has long embraced the kind of guerrilla tactics he knows can garner public attention from sympathizers and law enforcement officials. He has been arrested more than a dozen times in recent years, and he said he viewed the current trial as something of a teaching moment.

“My goal is more transparency, so the American public can really see how their food is produced,” he said.

It’s unclear whether the defendants have much support in Beaver County, a sparsely populated swath of high desert along the Nevada border where Smithfield is one of the largest employers. Emotions there have been especially high since last summer, when the company announced it was planning to shut down most of its operations there. Executives have blamed the downsizing on what they have described as onerous regulations in California, where many of its pigs are processed.

In August, the judge granted a defense request to move the trial to a larger, adjacent county.

The jurors will not be deliberating the fate of the two stolen piglets. Now full-grown, the piglets, known as Lucy and Ethel, are living at an animal sanctuary in Utah. According to activists, they are doing just fine.

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