Animal welfare activists protest ruling over video of factory farm break-in

SALT LAKE CITY — A group of animal welfare activists protested outside the Utah State Capitol following a judge’s ruling on video showing a break-in at an industrial pig farm.

Members of the Direct Action Everywhere group demonstrated against the ruling, which also bars the defendants from discussing conditions inside the Smithfield Foods farm near Milford or their motives for the burglary. Wayne Hsiung and Paul Picklesimer face burglary and theft charges related to the 2018 break-in, where two piglets were taken. It was filmed and made public as part of their activism (other defendants charged in the case have entered into plea deals to lesser charges).

“Now we’re not able to show anything. The defendants are not even able to talk about the conditions of the animals, so they’re just going to try to portray this as object theft,” Michelle said. Del Cueto, member of Direct. Action Everywhere.

The group had hoped the defendants would present what is commonly known as a “defence of necessity”, where actions are presented with a just cause. The Utah attorney general’s office pushed last year to block it and stick to the basic facts of a burglary. They also sought to exclude any video evidence, arguing that the video would “inflame” a jury. Defense attorneys were surprised that prosecutors were unwilling to show the video of the alleged crime itself.

Instead, 5th District Court Judge Jeffrey Wilcox said “still photos can be used to help the jury decide whether a burglary was committed, particular pigs were taken, their condition at the time of the catch and the value of the pigs taken.” On the issue of discussing why the break-in occurred, Judge Wilcox’s order directed the “defense to instruct all witnesses not to mention any animal condition, concern or motive of the accused for having committed the offences”.

The Utah Court of Appeals has already denied a request to appeal the judge’s orders, according to court records. Del Cueto told FOX 13 News the group is considering appealing to a higher court.

Hsiung and Picklesimer are scheduled to stand trial in Beaver in September. The Utah attorney general’s office declined to comment on Tuesday’s protest at the Capitol or the judge’s rulings.

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