Activists face felony charges over piglets stolen from Beaver County farm

This photo for illustration shows lean hogs at an unidentified farm, location and date not specified | Photo courtesy of notwaew, iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Five animal rights activists are facing more than 60 years in prison over allegations they took piglets from a farm near Milford.

The Utah Attorney’s General office filed charges against members of California-based Direct Action Everywhere Monday accusing them of stealing a pair of 3-week old pigs from a Smithfield Foods barn.

The group allegedly took a 360-degree virtual reality video of the March 2017 incident and promoted it online, as part of a tactic known as “open rescue.” Activists claim the practice saves individual ill or injured animals and also helps shine a light on abusive farming practices.

“We believe the actions we took are lawful,” said organization co-founder Wayne Hsiung, who is one of the men facing charges. He pointed to a legal doctrine that allows for the violation of minor law such as trespassing in order to prevent a greater harm, such as animal cruelty or risks to public safety.

In an indictment filed with state court Monday, prosecutors said they used the group’s 11-minute video to identify the five men and the Smithfield barn from which the piglets were taken.

They also claimed that the investigators found pictures of the two animals at a Utah animal sanctuary on the activist group’s website, though they had been moved to a facility in Colorado for one to undergo hernia surgery.

The FBI obtained cellphone records that allegedly show the five men were in the area of the farm near Milford when the piglets were taken last March, court papers claim.

The same five men were charged in early May with stealing turkeys from a different Utah facility. Hsiung and another man indicted Monday, Jonathan Frohnmayer, interrupted Gov. Gary Herbert’s pardoning of a Thanksgiving turkey in November, shouting “Show us all the barns!”

The men each face two felony counts of burglary, one felony count of theft, one felony count of a pattern of unlawful activity and a misdemeanor riot charge. The maximum penalty is 61 years in prison and a $42,500 fine.

“They absolutely are escalating and it’s to intimidate activists,” Hsiung said.

Smithfield’s website says the Virginia-based company is the world’s largest producer of pork and is committed to being the industry’s leader in caring for animals and assuring respectful and humane treatment of animals.

A company spokesman did not respond to an inquiry Monday.

Last July, a federal court struck down a Utah law banning secret filming at farm and livestock sites, claiming the restrictions were an unconstitutional violation of free speech. Activists have alleged that exaggerated charges against activists in the state are an end-run around that ruling.

Written by JULIAN HATTEM, Associated Press

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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  • Carpe Diem May 22, 2018 at 7:41 am

    Looks like those 5 big pigs are going to the pen!

  • comments May 22, 2018 at 10:23 am

    The official position of the church state of UT is that animals were put here by “The Lord” for humans to use and abuse at will. They used to feel the same way about “negros”. And if you work for wages in this state it’s the same thing–in their view you’re no better than these pigs–“The Lord” put you here to be used/exploited.

    • johncmiller May 22, 2018 at 12:17 pm

      Please just go away. You are hateful and disgusting and it is seriously enough.

      • comments May 22, 2018 at 5:27 pm

        I will be enjoying my bacon, mr miller, but the truth is the truth.

        • johncmiller May 22, 2018 at 6:37 pm

          The truth is the truth as stated in your opinion. Makes soooooo much sense.

          • comments May 22, 2018 at 6:50 pm

            You can’t ever refute any points I make so you just whine and pout. Really, can you refute any? I’d like to hear it if you can. Prove me wrong about LDS. My views aren’t set in stone.

          • mesaman May 22, 2018 at 9:05 pm

            Commie seems to have take an dose of extra strength hate pills today. Hope they come in suppository form, for his sake.

          • comments May 22, 2018 at 10:39 pm

            says m&m, the government pensioner parasite. I wish my taxes didn’t pay for your survival, but I had no say in it.

  • desertgirl May 22, 2018 at 10:39 am

    Sixty years for taking abused animals, yet, we live in a society where cold-blooded murderers get a few years and sometimes walk. Let’s get our priorities straight. Start by kicking out violent illegal criminals, not people protecting the abused.

    • RadRabbit May 22, 2018 at 12:04 pm

      I agree on the illegals and murderers but steeling another persons property should also be punished to the fullest extent of the law.

  • DRT May 22, 2018 at 4:13 pm

    Lock them up and throw away the key. Then bring me a nice pork and green Chile burrito.

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