Is It Legal to Rescue Farm Animals From Cruelty

In several states, to help dogs escape hot cars when you observe them suffering.

If you attempt to save livestock, you may get the same fate as sisters Alexandra Paul (a former star on the “Baywatch” TV show) and the actress Alicia Santurio. The California women are accused of theft for saving two chickens destined for a slaughterhouse with alleged inhumane practices and will be tried on the 7th of March.

Laws against animal cruelty, in various forms across the 50 states, typically safeguard pets but not farm animals.

All farms certified by the USDA as “USDA Organic” are expected to be humane towards animals in the United States. However, only a tiny fraction of farms have been certified as organic.

In the same way, animals from farms are considered to be commercial property.

Taking Action 

In the past several years, more than twelve states have passed laws prohibiting specific cages or crates. However, generally speaking, the law regards farm animals as property, with protections much weaker than that of pets.

The activists for animal rights are attempting to rectify the situation using tactics similar to the ones Paul and Santurio employed with chickens: Document cruel conditions, free animals from these conditions and try to highlight their actions.

Paul Santurio and Paul Santurio are both activists for the animal rights organization Direct Action Everywhere, or DxE, who gained access to a poultry slaughterhouse that Foster Farms own. Utilizing infrared cameras, DxE recorded the conditions inside the facility (warning that the video may contain graphic material). Chickens were crushed and suffocated beneath piles of decomposing birds and left to die.

The sisters were charged with fraud after stealing their chickens from a vehicle in front of the slaughterhouse. They say their actions are no different from rescuing dogs in hot cars.

The law does not agree. However, this isn’t stopping the rescuers from farms who have staged several of these recent operations and often film themselves while doing the work to persuade police to pursue criminal cases against them.

They pledged to accept their sanctions in exchange for drawing attention to the plight of animals; however, in October 2022, two activists were cleared of charges. The defendants filmed the conditions at a massive pig farm. Then they rescued two piglets from the farm, after which they were accused of felony burglary and theft in the misdemeanor category. Two defendants admitted to what they had done, but a jury of eight acquitted them after a full lengthy trial.

‘Ag Gag’ Laws 

Farmers are fighting animal rescuers by pushing for laws that would make it illegal to film or photograph activities on farms without owners’ permission. These laws, dubbed “ag gag” laws, are controversial becauseportant constitutional issues concerning the exclusion of the private land of First Amendment review.

Farming operations comprise a vital element of our food supply, and courts have frequently been skeptical of providing them with a protective shield. “The ability to investigate and document how our food is made is critical in ensuring a just and transparent food system that holds companies and government institutions accountable,” said David Muraskin, food-project litigation director of Public Justice, a nonprofit law firm.

On February. 23rd, The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit became the latest court to invalidate ag-gag legislation as unlawful under the Constitution. In a split ruling, the three-judge panel decided that North Carolina’s ag-gag law violates the freedom of speech.

Ag-gag legislation has been rejected or declared illegal in 25 states but remains within six states. Thus, the legal framework seems to suggest that monitoring the abuse of animals on farms is permitted in most states.

This does not mean that trespassing or theft is unacceptable; however, it does mean that we have the right to know the situation with the animals.

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