Opinion: Berkeley must challenge animal industry abuses

To prompt Berkeley and its residents to pay more attention to the inhumane treatment of animals, one Cal student ran onto the football field with a stuffed pig.

Two UC Berkeley police officers take Cassie King off the football field on Oct. 13, 2107. Photo: cougfan.com

“So what’s this all about?” probed the UC Berkeley police officer, moments after hauling my limp body from the field at California Memorial Stadium during the Oct. 13 football game.

“I’m invoking my right to remain silent,” came my standard response.

“OK, well, the really important question is – what’s the pig’s name?”

“She’s invoking her right to remain silent.”

The welcome comic relief starkly contrasted my anxiety in taking the action I did, as well as the circumstances which brought me there.

As an investigator with Direct Action Everywhere (DxE), I have infiltrated farms in the middle of the night in what’s called “open rescue.”  We document the brutal reality present even on supposedly “humane” farms.  We rescue sick, injured babies from hell and provide them the care and the lives they truly deserve, then publicly tell their stories to the masses via social and mainstream media.

One such survivor is baby Lily. Lily was found inside Smithfield’s Circle Four Farms in Milford, Utah, a major Costco supplier. With over one million pigs passing through each year, it’s the largest pig farm in the country. One missing piglet – which we found starving with an injured leg – would never be noticed, nor was she of any economic value.

So it was more than a little curious when animal sanctuaries around the country were suddenly raided by six-vehicle-armadas of FBI agents, armed and wearing bulletproof vests. Sanctuary workers and their families sobbed and begged the agents to stop as they held down the piglets to cut off pieces of their ears in a purported effort to obtain evidence.  Volunteers were further harassed as agents followed them home.

The ominous intrusions and related use of resources are suggestive of a pending indictment under the repressive, anti-free speech Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act.

The federal government’s financial investment in this futile pig hunt highlights the dangerous ties between government and agribusiness; the goal is to intimidate whistleblowers who threaten to reveal the truth.  The findings of Glenn Greenwald – in perhaps the best investigative journalism piece in the history of the animal rights movement – were shocking even to us.

In the face of violence and repression, Berkeley – the birthplace of the Free Speech Movement and of other just causes – has an opportunity, and a responsibility, to once again lead in representing the best in all of us. Berkeley students and citizens are being targeted for uncovering horrific abuses, and we must take a stand against this sort of brutality.

I call on Berkeley citizens, the university, and our elected officials, including Mayor Arreguín, to embrace Berkeley’s anti-corporate political history and take a leadership role in challenging the abuses perpetrated by animal-abusing industries.

We must stand by our shared values of respect and compassion.  Sentient creatures are not objects, and we want the city of Berkeley to become the first city in the world to recognize every animal’s safety as a basic right – to become the animal rights capital of the nation.

Terrorism is not bringing an injured piglet to a vet. Terrorism is not exposing the violence inherent in animal agriculture. The true terrorism is treating living, feeling individuals as objects, rather than respecting them as the individuals they truly are. The animal rights movement is rising up against this cruelty, and Berkeley is the ideal place to launch this budding, nonviolent movement for all sentient life.

See a video of the incident here.

Cassie King is a junior majoring in English at UC Berkeley, as well as an organizer and investigator with the global grassroots animal rights network Direct Action Everywhere (DxE).