A pigeon that can’t fly befriended a puppy that can’t walk. Yes, it’s as cute as it sounds

Lundy (left) and Herman (right) are friends. Yes, they're a chihuahua and pigeon, respectively, but the species barrier hasn't stopped them from snuggling up at their Rochester, New York, rescue.

(CNN)Meet Herman and Lundy, recent cuddle buddies and rescue animals.

The two are an unlikely pair: Herman, a pigeon, suffered neurological damage more than a year ago. He can’t fly. Little Lundy, a newborn chihuahua puppy, can’t use his back legs.
But stick them together, and the two will snuggle up as though they were members of the same litter — or nest.
The two met through the Mia Foundation, a rescue organization in Rochester, New York, that rehabilitates animals with birth defects and physical deformities. Sue Rogers, the nonprofit’s founder, sends most of her rescues to foster homes around the US but keeps a few of them for school programs about bullying.
Their interspecies friendship has inspired scores of supporters to donate to the foundation. And the animals, Rogers said, make each other better.

Two rough beginnings

Herman was found over a year ago in a car dealership parking lot, where he sat on the pavement, unmoving, for three whole days. Eventually his rescuers realized the poor pigeon couldn’t fly.
Neighboring wildlife rescues said he couldn’t be rehabilitated and would need to be euthanized, so Rogers took care of him herself.
He now rests in a baby crib for some of the day, but she takes him outside daily to stimulate him.
Little Lundy, an infant chihuahua, is a new arrival. His breeders in South Carolina sent him to Rogers because he had trouble using his hind legs, a condition known as swimmers syndrome.
At just 6 ounces, he was small enough to fit in a shirt pocket. Rogers said she suspects Lundy’s difficulty walking is due to damage to his teeny spinal cord.

When Lundy met Herman

The two were bound to meet eventually. Rogers set them together while attending to Lundy and saw the way the two snuggled up almost immediately — Herman didn’t peck, and Lundy didn’t nibble.

Rogers snapped some pictures of their cuddles. The “oohs” and “ahhs” followed soon after.
People from every corner of the world flooded Rogers’ inbox with donations, messages of support and, naturally, pleas to adopt Lundy or the other cute pups in her care.
“I was blown away,” she said.
And the donations keep coming — the foundation raised $6,000 in two days, she said. That’s enough to cover the high-end cost of a veterinary surgery that many of her rescue animals require.

Lundy needs to get stronger to be adoptable

Herman will likely stay in Rogers’ care for the rest of his life. She’s hopeful Lundy stays strong and survives.
“With animals born with defects, there’s a chance we could lose them,” she said. “So we don’t want to make anyone really excited. But now I think we’ve gotten a thousand emails asking, ‘Please, don’t ever separate those two!'”
One of Lundy’s rescuers fell in love with him while traveling with him to Rochester, so he may already have a new home lined up. The question, then, is if Herman will ask to tag along too.

Animal-rights groups picket NH Trappers banquet ahead of hearing on recreational trapping bill

  • Updated 
Trapping protest

Annie Smith, a member of Twin State Animal Liberation, stands with a photo of a red fox on South Main Street in front of the Franklin Elks Lodge where the New Hampshire Trappers Association’s annual banquet was being held Saturday.

FRANKLIN — Ahead of what is expected to be a contentious, lengthy hearing on a bill that opponents say would lead to the elimination of recreational trapping, three animal-rights groups picketed the New Hampshire Trappers Association’s annual banquet on Saturday.

From about 4:15 to 5:30 p.m., a dozen-plus people and one human-sized red fox representing NH Citizens Against Recreational Trapping, NH Animal Rights League, and Twin State Animal Liberation conducted an informational picket on South Main Street, outside the Franklin Elks Lodge, where the banquet was held.

Kristina Snyder of Chester said the goal of the picket was to raise public awareness about trapping, the NHTA’s relationship with the Miss New Hampshire Scholarship Program, and House Bill 1504.

On Tuesday at 2 p.m. in Rooms 305-307 in the Legislative Office Building, the House of Representative’s Fish and Game and Marine Resources Committee is scheduled to take up HB 1504, which would create a study committee to examine the feasibility of banning recreational trapping and would require that committee to file a report by Nov. 1.

The NHTA, on its website, urged members to attend the HB 1504 hearing, saying that “if there was one day worth taking a day off from work to attend it would be this one.” The NHTA says “trapping is humane and the only way to successfully control furbearer populations.”

Larry Torr, president of the NHTA, was not immediately available for comment.

Holding a large photo of a silver fox with its leg caught in a trap, Snyder said HB 1504 would ban recreational trapping, but not commercial trapping of nuisance wildlife.

She said that in September 2019, California became the first state to make recreational trapping illegal and that the Granite State should follow suit.

Animals feel fear and pain, she said, and trapping is an outdated and unnecessary tradition.

Another tradition that should end, Snyder said, is that of the NHTA annually presenting a coat made of furs collected by members to the winner the Miss New Hampshire competition.

An official with the Miss New Hampshire Scholarship Program, in published reports last year, said the organization, despite the controversy, would continue its relationship with the NHTA, adding that the Miss New Hampshire winner had the option of accepting the fur coat, something Snyder disputes.

Annie Smith, of Westminster, Vt., came to Saturday’s picket because, she said, “we want to let people know that trapping still goes on and there’s no reason for it.”

Smith, who held a picture of a red fox, is confident that recreational trapping will cease. “I just hope it happens in my lifetime,” she said.

Further up the picket line, a much larger, faux red fox, who said his name is Anonymous and that he hails from New Hampshire, said the NHTA and “a few hundred trappers are holding wildlife hostage. It’s time for that to end.”

Disney parks expand vegan food options and they’re delicious

 (just don’t call them ‘vegan’)

David G. Allan, CNN • Updated 14th February 2020
Editor’s Note — David Allan, editorial director for Features at CNN, has been a vegetarian for more than 25 years and Star Wars fan for 40 years. This is the first time those two priorities have intersected. The views expressed here about Disney’s plant-based options are his own.
Orlando, Florida (CNN) — The self-described “happiest place on Earth” is getting increasingly happier for animals, and for those who are increasingly removing those animals from their diet.
After a big push last fall, the resort development division of Walt Disney World in Florida has identified more than 400 new and proven “plant-based” options on the menus of all its food locations, including park restaurants, food carts and hotel properties. That’s 580 locations in Disney World alone. And a similar effort is underway at the Disneyland park and resort in Anaheim, California.
Just don’t call these non-meat, non-dairy, non-honey options “vegan.”
“Most research shows that the word ‘vegan’ appeals to vegans but the trend is much broader than that,” explained Cheryl Dolven, a manager for food and beverage health and wellness with Walt Disney World Resort Development, Optimization and Standardization.
“‘Plant-based’ is much more broadly appealing,” Dolven added.
“I get it, ‘vegan’ sounds weird,” I said to Dolven, who politely didn’t disagree.
“Plant-based” can be defined more loosely than vegan, says CNN Health contributor and nutritionist Lisa Drayer. But Disney defines their “plant-based” options as “made without animal meal, dairy, eggs and honey,” according to their website, meeting the commonly accepted definition of vegan.
Like many of Disney's food offerings, some of the vegan dishes are themed to match their location. This hummus dish served at Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge is called a "Felucian Garden Spread," a reference to a planet covered in overgrown plants in the Star Wars universe.

Like many of Disney’s food offerings, some of the vegan dishes are themed to match their location. This hummus dish served at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is called a “Felucian Garden Spread,” a reference to a planet covered in overgrown plants in the Star Wars universe.
Whatever you want to call it, it’s a smart move to capitalize on a trend that’s already impacting the restaurant and hospitality industry across the country. Restaurant sales of alternative meat products jumped 268% last year, according to the Dining Alliance, a US industry group.
Disney was also hearing directly from its own visitors, who were noting dietary restrictions in their reservations, buying more meat-free options, and giving feedback in guest surveys asking for vegan options. It all became a growing chorus asking the resorts to embrace a growing vegetarian and vegan appetite.
The company is also trying to appeal to younger guests, the future of Disney, as well as its own cast members who adhere to plant-based diets, Dolven added.

The proof is in the tasting

It’s one thing to offer more hummus and carrot sticks. It’s another to invest and innovate in alternatives that appeal to the diverse interests of those who are vegan and may still crave the taste of meat, chocolate, pastries and ice cream.
Disney chose the latter. Its in-house Flavor Lab, a research and development facility used to create and test new menu items, tasked its chefs to reeducate themselves. They took trips to vegan (sorry, plant-based) restaurants in New York and Philadelphia. They began hunting for and developing replacements for mayonnaise, butter, yogurt, cheese and eggs.
Generally, “chefs aren’t trained that way,” said Gary Jones, a culinary dietary specialist at Walt Disney World. “A lot of us are going back and relearning how to extract the most flavor from plant-based choices.”
Jones then led me through a sampling of some of that research and development.
The most impressive of the offerings was the seafood platter on the menu at the Toledo restaurant located at Coronado Springs Resort. The creations mimicked a mouth-feel — flavor, texture and other sensations — I’d been craving over the more than 25 years I’ve been a vegetarian.
The royal trumpet mushroom-based “scallop” was tender and buttery. The breaded fungi “calamari” was tangy and chewy. But it was the heart of palm-based “crab cake” that was personally moving.
I was born and raised in Maryland, baptized in Old Bay seasoning. I’ve never found a fake crab that wasn’t fish. And the Toledo’s crab cake was just how I’ve long dreamed non-seafood crab could be, the taste evoking childhood memories.
All over the Disney World parks and hotel restaurants, new menus rolled out in the fall feature a green leaf icon next to items that are plant-based. And while the company’s website has a new page featuring plant-based meal options, Disney’s vegan fans have created their own guides with a lot more detail and reviews.
And when it comes to Disney’s plant-based options, one size doesn’t fit all. Most of the new options are unique to a location’s theme and cuisine type.
The rustic-looking PizzeRizzo in Hollywood Studios serves a thick and juicy spicy Italian “sausage” sub, the same cost as their meatball sub. The African themed Mara restaurant in the Animal Kingdom Lodge has a Marrakesh Falafel Platter served with soy yogurt. Epcot’s Rose & Crown Dining Room, for example, has a vegan version of the traditional UK breakfast of bangers and mash available upon request. Hollywood Studios’ fancy Brown Derby serves a popular vegan chocolate-coconut cake, the same price as the espresso cheesecake and chocolate mousse cake.

And they ate happily ever after

I sampled other options in the Orlando parks, uncovering a not-so-hidden world of vegan, er, plant-based dining.
In Galaxy’s Edge, the Star Wars land, I adored the Felucian Garden Spread, with plant-based spicy “kefta” meatballs and hummus and tomato-cucumber relish with pita bread, served in a skillet and actual metal silverware. The kefta was meaty-chewy and filling, the hummus thick with herbs. Jones said its one of the best sellers among the stellar offerings at the boisterous Docking Bay 7 Food and Cargo. Felucia is a jungle planet that makes a brief appearance in “Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.”
On the other end of the culinary spectrum, the ABC Commissary in Orlando’s Hollywood Studios served a thick and delicious vegan California Burger with sautéed peppers, vegan mayo ketchup and a Sriracha mustard, served with a side of perfectly crisp shoestring fries. It cost $2 more than their traditional cheeesburger. I didn’t see any vegan dessert options, so I asked the woman taking orders if there were any. She looked confused and politely answered, “No, I don’t think so,” which the Disney public relations department later confirmed.
And I made a hearty dinner of the Southwest Bowl at the Fairfax Fare stand in Hollywood Studios. The bowl is a well crafted blend of chili, corn and vegan cheese, topped with non-dairy ranch dressing and crunchy tortilla chips. It costs the same as their comparable bowl with chicken.
I also noticed some locations not meeting the claim that all food locations have plant-free options. The Dockside Diner, near the Fairfax Fare didn’t have any plant-based options on its menu of hot dogs and nachos.
But Disney is getting there. Disneyland will get its big plant-based push this spring. And properties in Europe and Asia have many plant-based options but no current plans to overhaul their menus (visitor demand could affect that decision).
Given the planners’ careful eye on sales, it’s clear that the more Disney guests who choose vegetarian and plant-based options, the more options they can expect. After all, this is a hospitality brand famous for its innovation and for perpetually reinventing itself, and that extends to its dining choices.
“It’s been great to see the reception we’ve seen from the guests,” said Jones of the new plant-based options. “They are ordering more than we thought and influencing other guests. And our chefs are a lot more inspired and excited about it.”
As should vegetarian and vegan guests.

In first pilot of its kind, Israeli dairy won’t separate calves from mothers

Yotvata project will allow female calves to stay with mothers until weaning — but male calves will still be separated, sent off for fattening and slaughter

Dr Sivan Lacker and Ashkar Ginossar at the Yotvata Dairy in southern Israel. (Lior Nordman)

Dr Sivan Lacker and Ashkar Ginossar at the Yotvata Dairy in southern Israel. (Lior Nordman)

The Yotvata dairy farm in southern Israel is launching the first pilot project of its kind in an industrial cowshed in Israel — and will not separate female calves from their mothers right after birth.

The project will be run at a relatively new cowshed at Moshav Idan in the southern Israeli Arava desert, Zman Israel, the Times of Israel’s Hebrew language sister site, reported.

When the male calves are several days old they are sent off for fattening prior to slaughter — and that will not change. The project, planned to launch next year, will apply to newborn females, who are currently also separated from their mothers and taken after a few days of isolation to join other calves in a kind of crèche.

Veterinarian Sivan Lacker traveled to Europe to see how leaving calves with their mothers can be done. There, dairies tend to be smaller than they are in Israel, which is why Moshav Idan’s cowshed, with just 360 cows and an average of 150 births per year, was chosen.

Ashkar Genosar, Milk Receiving and Manufacturer Relations Manager, Yotvata Dairy. (Lior Nordman)

“We’re starting it gradually and very much want it to succeed,” said Ashkar Genosar, milk receiving and manufacturer relations manager at Yotvata Dairy. “We think it’s very important and hope that it will work from a health and technical standpoint. There are 23 cowsheds that work with us and when we suggested it to the manager of the Idan cowshed, she was very enthusiastic.”

Health risks facing calves include exposure to disease and entry into the cowshed of predatory animals, Genosar explained.

The idea is that the female calves will stay with their mothers for three to six months until weaning, after which they separate naturally. The youngsters will then join a group of their own age.

Genosar said that while the farm would lose the milk fed by the cow to its calf, studies showed that calves fed by their mothers went on to be healthier and stronger and to give more milk in the long run than those that had been separated from their mothers at birth.

Furthermore, the current practice of keeping and feeding calves in a separate “kindergarten” had substantial costs, which would be saved by allowing mother and calf to stay together.

“To the best of our knowledge, there is no such thing [as keeping cows and calves together] in the world of industrial cowsheds,” Genosar said.

Yotvata Dairy is one of the largest producers of dairy products in Israel and jointly owned by Kibbutz Yotvata and local food giant Strauss.

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Brad Pitt jabs GOP in Oscars acceptance speech, Joaquin Phoenix talks animal rights

Several Oscar winners took the opportunity to inject politics into Sunday night’s festivities, starting with the telecast’s first famous victor, Brad Pitt, who took a shot at Republican senators who voted against calling witnesses at President Trump’s impeachment trial.

The four-time Academy Award nominee won the best-supporting actor accolade for his role as a stuntman in “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.” The win marked his first-ever Academy Award win for acting. He immediately took the stage and got political by taking a jab at senators who voted against Democrats’ requests to call new witnesses in the impeachment trial, specifically former National Security Adviser John Bolton, who claimed he was willing to testify.


“They told me I only have 45 seconds up here, which is 45 seconds more than the Senate gave John Bolton this week,” Pitt said. “I’m thinking maybe Quentin [Tarantino] does a movie about it. In the end, the adults do the right thing.”

No new witnesses were called in Trump’s impeachment trial, for which he was ultimately acquitted by the Senate in a vote across party lines, with the exception of a lone Republican vote to convict coming from Sen. Mitt Romney.


Pitt had been expected to win the category after scooping up a series of honors this year, including at the Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild Awards.

They told me I only have 45 seconds up here, which is 45 seconds more than the Senate gave John Bolton this week

— Brad Pitt

Speaking backstage, the actor explained why he included a political jab in his Oscars acceptance speech.

“I was really disappointed with this week,” he told reporters. “And I think when gamesmanship trumps doing the right thing, it’s a sad day and I don’t think we should let it slide, and I’m very serious about that.”

Pitt was not the only actor to politicize his comments as Joaquin Phoenix used his lengthy, emotional best actor acceptance speech to discuss, among other things, the state of humanity, and the plight of cows.

"We feel entitled to artificially inseminate a cow, and when she gives birth, we steal her baby," Phoenix said after winning the Oscar for best actor. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

“We feel entitled to artificially inseminate a cow, and when she gives birth, we steal her baby,” Phoenix said after winning the Oscar for best actor. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images) (Getty)

“I think whether we’re talking about gender inequality or racism or queer rights or indigenous rights or animal rights, we’re talking about the fight against the belief, one nation, one race, one gender, or one species has the right to dominate, control and use and exploit another with impunity,” the animal-rights activist said.

“We feel entitled to artificially inseminate a cow,” Phoenix continued. “And when she gives birth, we steal her baby even though her cries of anguish are unmistakable and then we take her milk that’s intended for her calf and we put it in our coffee and our cereal.”

Julia Reichert, left, and Steven Bognar accept the award for best documentary feature for "American Factory." (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

Julia Reichert, left, and Steven Bognar accept the award for best documentary feature for “American Factory.” (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

Even socialist revolutionary Karl Marx was mentioned in a speech by Julia Reichert, the co-director of the Barack and Michelle Obama-produced Best Documentary winner “American Factory.”

Reichert concluded her speech with a paraphrase of the “Communist Manifesto,” written by Marx and Frederich Engels, stating “[W]e believe that things will get better when workers of the world unite.”

Pitt’s politically driven tone was significantly different than previous wins, where he kept it light with jokes and breezy speeches. Pitt was more somber on Sunday, calling his win “incredible” as his peers cheered.

The actor plays the stunt double of an aging cowboy actor played by Leonardo DiCaprio, a best actor nominee, in Quentin Tarantino’s 1969 Hollywood fable.


“‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,’ ain’t that the truth,” an emotional Pitt said before he thanked his children, Tarantino and DiCaprio.

“I’ll ride on your coattails any day,” he concluded of his co-star. “The view’s fantastic.”

Brad Pitt accepts the award for best performance by an actor in a supporting role for 'Once Upon a Time in Hollywood' at the Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 9, 2020, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.

Brad Pitt accepts the award for best performance by an actor in a supporting role for ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ at the Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 9, 2020, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

Young trader’s epic Beyond Meat stock misfire: ‘Biggest mistake of my life’

Published: Jan 22, 2020 2:34 p.m. ET

‘That’s what I get for betting against the vegan movement’

Beyond Meat for sale at a market in Encinitas, California.




For veteran Wall Street types, $12,000 is a rounding error, but for a guy getting his feet wet in the options pits, losing that much will leave a scar.

Unfortunately, that’s what happened this week to an anonymous trader whom we’ll call “Juice,” if the sob story he shared on Reddit is accurate.

“I thought I’d give options a try because I was doing pretty well swing trading and it was probably the biggest mistake of my life,” he wrote in a post. “I’m going to liquidate everything and pretend I didn’t just YOLO away a large chunk of my savings today on a stupid play I didn’t fully understand.”

YOLO, or “you only live once,” is the rally cry for Reddit’s WallStreetBets bunch, where excessive risk and sideways trades are celebrated daily. For most trading novices, options are best avoided—but apparently not for these guys.

Here’s Juice’s ill-fated Beyond Meat BYND, -2.20% options play:

When a trader buys a put option, he is buying the right, but not the obligation, to sell a stock at a specified price until the contract expires worthless. Buying puts is often used as a way to bet against a stock, like Juice did with Beyond Meat, which has surged more than 60% over the past month.

The timing of his options play, however, couldn’t have been much worse. Starbucks SBUX, +1.22% announced Tuesday that the coffee giant aims to add more plant-based items to its menu, sending shares of Beyond Meat up 15%.

“That’s what I get for betting against the vegan movement,” he explained to readers as his post gained traction. “Definitely the hardest financial lesson I’ve learned to date. Only 23 so I guess there’s plenty of time to make it up.”

The bet, in some ways, reflects growing appetite by average investors for risky plays as the stock market roars to new heights. At last check, the Dow DJIA, -0.05% was up modestly but further distancing itself from the 29,000 level.

The Wall Street Journal (paywall) reported earlier this month that over the past 20 years, stock-options volume has grown more than six times, to around 4.4 billion options contracts in 2019, citing Options Clearing Corp.

One benefit to purchasing equity options is that they can often be bought for a fraction of the underlying stock price and can be used as a way to hedge one’s exposure, or in the case of Juice, to make a speculative directional bet on an asset, that can sometimes deliver a gut punch.

WallStreetBets isn’t typically the place to go for a sympathetic shoulder, but, considering Juice’s age and inexperience, there were plenty on offer:

“Your main problem is going against the trend. We’re in a strong bull with very good investor sentiment,” Zer033x wrote. “No reason to go against it, even if you think something will drop, guess what? It’ll just be bought back up, so why not get it after the drop? That’s how you play the current market.”

Another Redditor looked at the bright side and called it, “A college semester of learning condensed into one afternoon of trading.”

At least there’s that, Juice.

PETA blasts AOC for apparently choosing purebred puppy over rescue dog

Liberal firebrand Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is once again being dogged by criticism — this time over a puppy.

The animal rights group PETA blasted AOC for apparently buying a purebred French bulldog instead of adopting a homeless dog from a shelter.

“The dog is pretty clearly a Frenchie and a very young puppy who appears to have been purchased from a breeder,” PETA spokeswoman Ashley Byrne told The Post.

The freshman Democrat introduced the pup to her social media followers Tuesday, but has refused to answer questions about the still-unnamed dog’s origins.

But she is taking name suggestions from her followers: “We are thinking something Star Trek related or Bronx/Queens/NYC/social good related,” she said on Instagram.

PETA didn’t think there was anything cute about AOC’s pet pick.

“With the millions of homeless dogs out there, you apparently chose to buy a purebred puppy instead of adopting one from an animal shelter,” PETA president Ingrid Newkirk wrote in a letter to AOC on Thursday.

“Right this minute, on Petfinder alone, there are more than 110,000 dogs — including French bulldogs — who need homes. Animal shelters are bursting at the seams with hundreds of thousands more, many of whom will be ‘put to sleep’ for lack of a home,” Newkirk wrote.

“French bulldogs are inbred in order to produce breed-specific traits, which cause health problems that many people who will be influenced by your purchase won’t be able to afford to address,” Newkirk continued.

“They are particularly at risk because their ‘cute’ features plague them with a lifetime of breathing problems, ear and eye infections, skin irritation, a weak stomach, and other issues,” she wrote.

Newkirk also lectured AOC about proper canine care.

“We’re also sending you a copy of the book Dogs Hate Crates, which explains why crate training is not humane or effective,” Newkirk wrote.

Ocasio-Cortez had posted a video on her Instagram of the bulldog whimpering inside a small black cage.

Reps for the congresswoman did not immediately respond to requests for comment.


Animal rights activists carry the bodies of slaughtered animals as they hold a protest march during the 9th Annual National Animal Rights Day in Los Angeles on June 2, 2019. - The group held a sombre march through the streets of Los Angeles before holding a memorial service for slaughtered animals. (Photo by Mark RALSTON / AFP) (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP via Getty Images)
Animal rights activists carry the bodies of slaughtered animals as they hold a protest march during the 9th Annual National Animal Rights Day in Los Angeles on June 2, 2019. Photo: Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

THE FACTORY farming industry has had enough of Direct Action Everywhere, the controversial animal liberation activist group.

The California Farm Bureau Federation, the powerful agribusiness trade group, along with its local affiliates, has pushed for aggressive policing and prosecutions of Direct Action Everywhere, or DxE. Now, records obtained by The Intercept show that the California Farm Bureau worked behind closed doors to limit legal exemptions that DxE has long claimed provide protections for its work.

DxE, which is based in Berkeley, California, has waged a provocative campaign of civil disobedience in recent years, staging actions that the group calls “open rescues,” in which volunteers brazenly walk into meat plants and seize animals, many of which are facing slaughter, often ferrying them to medical tents erected outside the facility or to local veterinarians.

The actions, which have included rescues at meat and egg plants over the last two years in Sonoma County, have seized headlines and drawn national attention to the organization’s cause — while mobilizing opposition within the factory farming industry. DxE has claimed that its actions are protected under an obscure section of state law, California Penal Code §597e, which authorizes individuals to enter pounds to provide nourishment for neglected animals.

In DxE’s view, the statute allows legal entry into an area in which animals are confined if the animals have been deprived of food and water for over 12 hours. The group consulted with Hadar Aviram, a professor at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law, to develop a modern legal interpretation of §597e, which was originally passed in the 1870s and has rarely been cited in court. In DxE’s view, any commercial animal agriculture site constitutes a pound, given that the term simply refers to a facility for confined animals, a standard that is reflected in eight states with similar statutes.

That argument has enraged the animal agriculture interests throughout California, which have leaned on authorities to take a more aggressive response to DxE.

“In my view, what they are doing is bordering on terrorism involving the use of illegal practices to push their points of view,” said Tawny Tesconi, executive director of the Sonoma County Farm Bureau, an affiliate of the California Farm Bureau Federation, in an interview with KSRO radio host Pat Kerrigan. Following an action in which hundreds of DxE activists entered an egg farm in Petaluma to free chickens and care for them in medical tents set up around the facility by the group, Tesconi called for farmers to “work more closely with law enforcement and the DA’s office to provide the tools they need to fully prosecute actions like this.” (The police, notably, euthanized many of the chickens, which were found by veterinarians to be starving and unable to walk from being bred in sheds with thousands of birds.)

Behind closed doors, the California legislature moved last summer to redefine §597e, adding language to the code that explicitly exempts factory farms. The legal shift received virtually no attention or substantive legislative debate. The legislation that made the change was sponsored by Assemblyman Vince Fong, R-Bakersfield, whose bill, AB 1553, was presented as a “technical, nonsubstantive” change that required a lower threshold of scrutiny. The bill sailed through committee and was signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom last June.

DxE strongly disputes that the bill was merely a technical change and was shocked to discover the discreet push to amend the code. “Over one hundred activists have relied on §597e to protect them from politically-motivated prosecutions,” said DxE co-founder Wayne Hsiung, who is also a former visiting law professor at Northwestern School of Law. “We’ve obtained dismissal or diversion of charges in dozens of cases where people were trying to give aid to starving animals.”

The California Farm Bureau denies promoting the bill, despite disclosures showing that the group lobbied on the Fong bill. “The California Farm Bureau did not actively advocate on the legislation, either for or against,” wrote Dave Kranz, a spokesperson for the California Farm Bureau. “We did take part in technical discussions about the bill and potential impacts to California agriculture, as was correctly disclosed.”

Fong’s office and the Sonoma County Farm Bureau did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

The California Farm Bureau’s claim that the group acted merely as a neutral observer, and did not seek to limit the scope of §597e, appears unlikely given the group’s advocacy over the last year.

Robert Spiegel, a lobbyist with the California Farm Bureau in Sacramento, spoke at the Flamingo Resort & Conference Center in Santa Rosa last May to explain to farmers in Sonoma County how his organization had worked to respond to the threat posed by animal rights activists.

During his remarks, Spiegel referenced the interpretation produced by Aviram on behalf of DxE and informed the group that California Farm Bureau’s “senior legal counsel as well as other individuals in our operations” produced a counter-memo to dispute Aviram’s arguments. DxE shared a recording of Spiegel’s remarks and, using a records request, obtained a copy of Spiegel’s memo, which had been sent to the Sonoma County district attorney’s office as well as to other prosecutors in California.

The memo attempts to dispute DxE’s rationale for its use of §597e by claiming that even if animal farms are “pounds,” the group may not claim there is an “imminent threat” if they rely on past video evidence of abuse or deprivation.

Far from taking a neutral stance, the memo strongly suggests the California Farm Bureau’s lobbying team took an active role in shaping the interpretation of §597e.

Around the country, animal agriculture interests have worked carefully to criminalize similar forms of activism around factory farms, including hidden camera investigations. The Intercept previously obtained emails showing a bill signed into law in Idaho that provided criminal penalties for filming animal abuse at factory farms had been quietly authored by a dairy lobbyist — one of many so-called ag-gag laws enacted around the country. A federal judge later overturned most of the statute. Farm Bureau groups have worked to enact similar laws in Missouri, Iowa, Utah, and other states.

The California Farm Bureau wields significant influence in state politics. The group spends upward of $600,000 a year peddling influence in Sacramento with a team of eight in-house lobbyists, according to disclosures.

In 2018, the Sonoma County Farm Bureau, responding to a wave of open rescues, brought in a national farm industry group known as the Animal Agriculture Alliance to host seminars for farmers on how to push back against future DxE activism. The group has promoted ag-gag laws and in more recent years sought to pressure law enforcement to view animal rights activists as terror threats. The alliance relies on financial support from the American Farm Bureau, the California Farm Bureau’s national affiliate, as well as the National Pork Industry Foundation.

“The Farm Bureau wants to change §597e because it knows that factory farms routinely allow animals to starve to death,” added Hsiung. “It’s the result of a system that has operated in secrecy, and ruthless pursuit of profit, for decades.”