The latest trial where the defendants Wayne Hsiung, Cassandra King, and Priya Sawhney are testing the Open Rescue concept is now underway in Sonoma County, Northern California, US. They face trespass charges for providing medical care and removing 70 chickens and ducks from three different factory farms (Reichardt Duck Farm, Sunrise Farms and Petaluma Poultry). 

The defendants are members of the animal protection organisation Direct Action Everywhere (DxE), which has made Open Rescue (when activists openly rescue farmed animals against the will of the humans who oppress them, without hiding their identity or actions) their signature form of activism. There have been several recent cases of defendants from DxE being acquitted on other Open Rescue charges.

On 1st September 2023, prosecutors amended the charges to remove those related to theft and burglary, effectively limiting what evidence the defendants could offer as evidence. They are now only charged with conspiracy to commit trespass and trespass. To the dismay of the activists who wanted to show in court the footage they obtained in the farms, now that the theft charges had been dropped, the judge stated that “the general condition of the [factory farms] is not relevant”. Among the materials the defendants wanted to show to the court were images and videos of birds stuck in their cages, unable to move or access food and water

Attorneys for Costco and Whole Foods, among others, were present in the first hearing on 8th September in response to defence subpoenas for evidence relating to conditions on one of the farms. The judge granted motions filed by Whole Foods, Costco, and the American Humane Association to quash such subpoenas. 

In that hearing, Cassandra King was officially dismissed from the case, but she made the following statement to the court: “Just because I’ll no longer have a trial and won’t be able to be acquitted, I want to say I don’t think I’ve done anything wrong by rescuing animals being subjected to criminal animal cruelty.”  

The judge placed an order preventing all three defendants and attorneys from speaking to the press. The defendants filed a motion on 8th September asking the judge to vacate the gag order on First Amendment grounds, which was denied on 13th September. The trial may continue on the 25th of September when the opening statements may be heard, and it is expected to last two weeks or longer.

UnchainedTV is covering this case.

Jordi Casamitjana
“Originally from Catalonia, but resident in the UK for several decades, Jordi is a vegan zoologist and author, who has been involved in different aspects of animal protection for many years. In addition to scientific research, he has worked mostly as an undercover investigator, animal welfare consultant, and animal protection campaigner. He has been an ethical vegan since 2002, and in 2020 he secured the legal protection of all ethical vegans in Great Britain from discrimination in a landmark employment tribunal case that was discussed all over the world. He is also the author of the book, ‘Ethical Vegan: a personal and political journey to change the world’.