“The heartbreaking cries of these caged pigs were so loud that we could not hear each other talking,” Hsiung said. The two piglets they took outside were sick, malnourished and most likely thrown in the trash, he said.
Smithfield spokesman Jim Monroe said the company is committed to phasing out the use of gestation crates and improving the welfare of the tens of millions of pigs it raises each year. “Straying from our high standards of animal care is counterproductive to this mission,” he said in an email.
Richard Piatt, a spokesman for Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, said the defendants invited indictment by publicly posting evidence of their crimes. “Prosecutors feel obligated to admit that there was robbery and theft,” he said.
Indeed, lawyer and DxE founder Hsiung has long embraced guerrilla tactics, which he knows can attract public attention from supporters and law enforcement officers. He has been arrested more than a dozen times in the past few years, and thinks that the current trial is a moment to teach him something.
“My goal is to increase transparency so the American public can actually see how their food is produced,” he said.
It is unclear whether the defendants have much support in Beaver County, a sparsely populated high desert region along the Nevada border where Smithfield is one of its largest employers. Sentiment there has been particularly high since last summer when the company announced plans to close most of its operations there. Management blames the downsizing for what they describe as a nasty regulation in California, where much of the pig is slaughtered.
In August, a judge granted the defense’s request to move the trial to an adjacent larger county.
A jury will not deliberate the fate of the two stolen piglets. Activists say they are doing well.