Seven animal rights activists were cited for trespassing while trying to rescue a pig from the Farmer John slaughterhouse in Vernon, police said Saturday.
Police received a call at about 4 a.m. Friday from officials at Smithfield Foods — owner of Farmer John — to report that some trespassers were on the premises at 3049 E. Vernon Ave., according to Vernon Police Sgt. Daniel Onopa.
“Two subjects were determined to be inside the livestock yard and five subjects fled on foot,” Onopa said. “They (the five subjects) were then detained by officers nearby. Due to the pandemic, they were cited at the scene and released.”
The animal rights group DXE Los Angeles — which is hosting a 48-hour vigil in front of the slaughterhouse beginning Sunday — posted a video on its Facebook page showing activists wearing hardhats inside the facility. The group places a pig on a gurney and attempts to leave, but police are shown outside and a voice is heard saying, “they’re locking the doors, guys.”
It was unclear how the activists gained entry to the plant.
“I don’t know the exact details about that,” Onopa said. “There’s still pending, further investigation that I can’t comment on.”
Matt Johnson, spokesman for Direct Action Everywhere, said the group was unable to rescue the pig, who they assume was killed.
The group identified the seven activists as Emek Echo, Lewis Bernier, Alicia Santurio, Rachel Hosler, Zoe Rosenberg, Robert Franklin and Alexandra Paul. Paul is an actress best known for a starring role in the 1983 horror film, “Christine,” and a role on the TV series “Baywatch” from 1992-97.
“Smithfield will do anything to keep making money, from torturing pigs to endangering its workers’ lives,” she said. “We took nonviolent direct action because lives are at stake.”
Attempts to reach Smithfield Foods for comment on Friday’s incident and Sunday’s planned vigil were not immediately successful.
The animal rights group said the seven entrants managed to retrieve a hidden camera previously planted in the facility with 81 hours of footage of the slaughter line, “the first time public footage has been obtained from inside the slaughterhouse.”
Thousands of pigs are trucked into the facility each day, where they are killed and turned into Dodger Dogs, as well as the ham, bacon, sausage and hot dogs sold under the Farmer John label.
DXE said on Facebook that its vigil will attempt to educate workers and the public about the inhumane treatment of animals at such plants, and the effect of the factory farming industry on climate change and public health issues, including the coronavirus pandemic. A DXE-led coalition of dozens of organizations are also calling on California Gov. Gavin Newsom to issue an executive order prohibiting the construction of new factory farms and slaughterhouses in the state.
Organizers said Saturday that they expect “dozens” of arrests at Sunday’s vigil.
Earlier this year, the Farmer John slaughterhouse experienced a large COVID-19 outbreak, in which 153 workers have tested positive for the disease.
In May, the union that represents some 1,300 Farmer John employees called for an immediate closure of the plant.
“Working conditions inside the plant are similar to what we are seeing nationwide in Smithfield plants,” said John Grant, president of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 770. “Workers are still too close together on the line, in the breakroom, the bathrooms and other such hubs. Smithfield has not provided full information about what is really going on inside the Vernon plant. Without information we cannot make an informed decision about workers’ health and safety. Therefore, we are calling for Smithfield to continue paying workers while they close the plant for a complete and thorough investigation and cleaning and to ensure the company is complying with Cal/OSHA and Department of Public Health guidance.”
Virginia-based Smithfield Foods said it had implemented stringent new health protocols to protect against the virus.
“Our Smithfield family members are crucial to our nation’s response to COVID-19. We thank them for keeping food on America’s tables, and have implemented aggressive measures to protect their health and safety during this pandemic,” the company said in a statement.