Wayne Hsiung, the co-founder of the animal rights organization Direct Action Everywhere (DxE), was found guilty of three of four charges in the Sonoma Rescue trial, in California, US. The jury announced its verdict on 2nd November 2023, after six long days of deliberations, but it could not reach a unanimous verdict for the fourth charge. Hsiung, who was taken to jail without bail, will have a sentencing hearing on 30th November.

Hsiung faced two misdemeanour trespass and two felony conspiracy to commit trespass charges as a lead organizer in the open rescues of chickens and ducks from two California animal factories. He was found guilty of felony conspiracy and misdemeanour trespass at a chicken factory and misdemeanour trespass at a duck factory, but the jury could not reach a unanimous verdict on the felony conspiracy charge from the ducks’ rescue, resulting in a “hung jury” on that charge.

During the trial, the judge made a series of decisions that shocked animal rights supporters. She presided over a pre-trial hearing on 27th September, where future defence witnesses were allowed to be cross-examined by the prosecution before the jury was even selected. She also rejected one veterinarian for the defence as a witness, declaring her irrelevant. The judge only allowed the jury to see a couple of very short videos of the conditions of the animals in the factories where the open rescue events took place. Those videos were not very graphic and only provided a glimpse of the conditions, not reflecting the extent of the suffering these animals endure. 

The judge did not allow Hsiung to use as a possible defence for this case the 597e rule, which at the time of these open rescues (it has changed now) stated that a person can take action to help animals that have been deprived of food and water for at least 12 hours. Several of these issues may be grounds for an appeal, and Direct Action Everywhere posted on X that “Wayne will absolutely be appealing this conviction. #RightToRescue.”

“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’.