Mr Hsiung said: “The screams of pain from the pigs locked in these cages were so loud that we couldn’t hear each other talk. The two piglets they took out were sick and malnourished, he said, and would most likely end up in the trash.
Jim Monroe, a spokesman for Smithfield, said the company has largely phased out the use of pregnancy crates and is committed to improving the welfare of the tens of millions of pigs the company raises each year. “Any deviation from our high standards for animal care is counterproductive to this mission,” he said in an email.
Richard Piatt, a spokesman for Sean Reyes, the attorney general for Wyoming, said the defendants invited prosecution by publicly posting evidence of a crime. “Prosecutors feel obliged to admit that there was a burglary and theft,” he said.
Indeed, Mr. Hsiung, a lawyer and founder of DxE, has long accepted the type guerrilla tactics he knows can attract public attention from sympathizers and law enforcement officials. He has been arrested more than a dozen times in recent years, and he says he views the current trial as something to be taught.
“My goal is to be more transparent, so that the American public can really see how their food is produced,” he said.
It is not clear if the defendants have much support in Beaver County, a sparsely populated high desert region along the Nevada border where Smithfield is one of the largest employers. Emotions have been particularly high since last summer, when the company announced that it planned to close most of its operations there. Operators have blamed the downsizing on what they describe as tough regulations in California, where many of its pigs are processed.
In August, the judge issued a plea request to move the trial to a larger, adjoining county.
The jury will not weigh the fate of the two stolen piglets. Now grown, the piglets, called Lucy and Ethel, live at an animal sanctuary in Utah. According to activists, they are doing very well.