Foster Farms theft case verdict could affect future

The recent acquittal of two women who were charged with the theft of two Foster Farms chickens could have negative implications on the agriculture industry, one attorney said.

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Jason Morrison, Freeimages.com
Jason Morrison, Freeimages.com

The recent acquittal of two women who were charged with the theft of two Foster Farms chickens could have negative implications on the agriculture industry, one attorney said.

A growing trend among extremist animal rights organizations is to remove animals that don't belong to them from their current environment while calling the act a “rescue.”

In a recent high-profile case in California, two members of animal rights organization Direct Action Everywhere (DxE), Alexandra Paul and Alicia Santurio, were arrested and charged with misdemeanor theft. Outside of her notoriety from this case, Paul also has a recognizable name as an actress whose most notable acting credit is as a member of the cast of the television show, “Baywatch.”

That case went all the way to a jury trial, in which Paul and Santurio were found not guilty.

While speaking at the 2023 Animal Agriculture Alliance Stakeholders Summit on May 5 in Arlington, Virginia, Emily Lyons, partner attorney for the firm Husch Blackwell LLP, expressed concern that the outcome of this case could have negative implications.

Paul and Santurio were criminally charged with theft because it appears they had broken the law. And there are other possible instances of similar behavior where activists could be charged.

But in the case of Paul and Santurio, the jury decided “all you were trying to do is save two sick chickens.”

There were good and bad elements in this case. The good was that prosecutors were willing to see this as a case worth pursuing.

“We were actually lucky in this case, where the state was willing to prosecute. You have to get buy-in from your state prosecutors and your local prosecutors to actually get them to (take steps to enforce) that law, because you can’t enforce the criminal laws as an individual citizens,” she said.

But the negative is that prosecuting attorneys might be less apt to pursue cases that are similar in nature.

“Unfortunately, this just shows to state prosecutors that it’s not worth it. If we keep losing these cases, we’re not going to have that law enforcement protection for our industry, which is unfortunate,” Lyons said. “I see this as a disincentive to prosecutors to prosecute these cases.”

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