On 9th December 2023, Wayne Hsiung, the vegan lawyer and co-founder of the animal rights organization Direct Action Everywhere (DxE), was released from the Sonoma County jail in California after serving 38 days in custody of the 90 days he was sentenced to on 30th of November. He still has to serve two years’ probation for three trespass-related convictions, during which he is not allowed any contact with the other named “co-conspirators” in this case. With time served since his conviction and California’s half-time credits, Hsiung walked out of jail much sooner than his supporters anticipated.
The Sonoma Open Rescue case involved the rescue of 70 chickens and ducks from two different factory farms in Sonoma County between 2018 and 2019 after investigations showed serious animal welfare problems. Hsiung was the only person convicted in this case after charges were dropped or plea deals were accepted regarding all the other co-defendants.
After leaving prison, broadcast live by the vegan channel Unchainedtv, Hsiung gave a long speech to the many animal rights supporters who gathered to celebrate his release. During the speech, he mentioned how much support he received in jail from other inmates, and how much he was able to talk to them about the plight of the animals DxE rescues. Even his cellmate drove to him an image of a duck in the back of an envelope in solidarity with his cause.
He said, “I had a pretty incredible opportunity to share the story of what has been happening in Sonoma County, not just in the last few months but in the last few decades. The concentration of power, the increasing usage of factory farm techniques, and the suffering of the animals. And, in this place, which society has deemed only fit for criminals, in this small community of people who have been forgotten, ignored, and condemned by the rest of society, what I saw all over again when I shared with people stories of Sonoma Country — the ducks, the chickens, the cows, and all the other beings suffering, and now some human beings too — was immense compassion.”