by Susie Steimle and Abigail Sterling

BERKELEY (KPIX) — For months, a Bay Area based animal liberation group has staged daring rescues of animals suffering inside factory farms without getting caught or arrested.

It seemed as if they were untouchable but now their luck has run out.

A Utah prosecutor has charged Wayne Hsiung, leader of the group DxE, and five other members with felony theft. The charges are connected to what DxE refers to as a “rescue” of a sick turkey from a Utah turkey farm that belongs to national turkey supplier Norbest. The group uncovered horrific conditions at the farm, including rotten diseased birds eating each other alive.

Animal rights groups have been exposing shocking videos of inhumane conditions at factory farms for decades. What sets DxE apart is that they don’t wear masks. Their followers are worldwide and growing.

So are their critics.

You may have seen them holding a funeral for turkeys at your local Whole Foods, re-enacting makeup testing on animals at a Mac store or being tackled by a San Francisco Giant while protesting hot dog meat at the ball park.

Their name is Direct Action Everywhere or DxE, and they desperately want your attention.

“So you think you have to be sensational to get people to listen?” we asked the group’s co-founder Wayne Hsiung.

His response: “I think we have to provoke.”

Unlike most animal activists who hide their identities Wayne proudly shows his unmasked face while breaking and entering into farms to save animals that he believes are being mistreated. The videos are posted on Facebook. The rescue of Lily the Piglet from a commercial hog farm is the most popular, with more than a million views.

“We show our faces because we believe in our actions we believe what we’re doing is not something we should hide,” said Hsiung. He’s a former law professor and former meat eater turned vegan. He knows the law and isn’t afraid to break it to raise awareness.

Usually DxE goes after large-scale factory farms where they’ve rescued animals from filthy conditions and cannibalism. But recently Hsiung crossed a new line. This winter he live streamed on Facebook an apparent break-in to steal a baby goat from a small family farm in the Bay Area.

“A lot of people believe falsely that small scale farming is more humane. But if that animal is being sold for slaughter there is a profit motive that will prevent that animal from being well treated,” said Hsiung.

Judy Hoffman, a Boer goat farmer in Anderson, disagrees.

“These guys are terrorists for the farming community they’re terrorists,” said Hoffman.

When she saw the open rescue she was enraged. “As a farming community of any kind of animal we feel threatened that he has a call to arms to people that it’s okay to do this,” she said.

Judy knows every goat by name on her Bear Creek ranch. Most of them are 4H animals. Kids pay for the livestock with their own money, train them, and take them to competition where they bring home belt buckle prizes the size of pancakes. She thinks this is the kind of goat Wayne stole that night.

“I’m not opposed to anyone being vegan that’s their right. What’s not their right is to steal,” said Hoffman.

Hoffman says the open rescue may have been staged for publicity, because, to date, no farm has come forward complaining about a theft.

“He’s making a ton of money off this so yeah all this sensationalism it’s going into his pocket,” said Hoffman.

KPIX looked into DxE’s finances: Friends of DxE, a non-profit that funds DxE’s campaigns, brought in just under a half a million dollars in 2016 but not a dollar of that went toward people’s salaries. Instead, proceeds went to protests and conferences.

Last year the FBI raided two animal sanctuaries looking for Lily the Piglet and several other piglets from the same factory farm. DxE was never charged.

“So how many times have you been arrested for your work?” we asked Hsiung. His response: “I’ve been arrested now well over a dozen times.” “How many times have those charges stuck?” we asked. “His response: “To date zero.”

Hsiung firmly believes that, 100 years from now, people will see animal rights as the next frontier of social justice. For now, he’s willing to accept the consequences of a society that doesn’t agree with him.

“I fully expect to go to prison someday and I’m fine with that because I think it is the cost of creating change.”

Hsiung’s prediction may now come true. Thursday’s charges could land him and five other members of the group in prison for up to ten years.

Comments (12)
  1. DxE makes no money from rescues. They use their own money and ask for donations. I don’t care if goat farm owners name their goats. They treat them as property. They separate babies and mothers, and they slaughter them. Notice how how the farm owner isn’t inviting us into a slaughterhouse, or a transport truck. It’s not profitable for animal farmers to treat sick or injured animals. They kill them or let them die. You can’t “steal” a life. Humans are animals, and animals are NOT PROPERTY. The entire concept of 4H – teaching children to raise and care for animals and then sell them like objects to be killed for NO NECESSARY REASON (except taste sensation) is desensitizing children. Our world is full of unnecessary violence and lack of respect for life. At the same time, people are dying from heart disease and cancer (which are tied to animal products like milk, eggs and meat), and animal agriculture is a leading cause of climate change, deforestation, species extinction, ocean dead zones, PTSD in slaughterhouse workers, pollution of low income neighborhoods and famine in third world countries. DxE will be regarded by future generations like abolitionists who helped to end slavery and Allied forces who exposed concentration camps. These are social justice warriors and peace makers and our agents of change. HEROES!!

    1. Bear Checkel says:

      Wow! Are you brainwashed! Maybe somebody should find out where you live, break in , deem the care of your animals not good enough and just take them!!. You think this is a good precedent to set? Direct whatever is just another arm of the anti everything liberal neomarxist movement.

  2. Judy Hoffman says:

    The reason I didn’t invite any of you into a slaughterhouse or a transport truck is because there are none. My animals are registered show animals, yes they have names and give kisses. There are many concepts to this goat industry, that you are putting a blanket cover over, for example you depict every goat farm is inhumane, therefore, we should all go and steal babies from them. We spend a fortune feeding, caring and providing veterinary care for each and every animal. You cannot lump small farms as mine in the category of inhumane treatment. My animals eat quality food, and get the best of care. As far as my comment to the monies donated, I should have said DXE is making a ton of money off of the sensationalism of breaking into a persons place, stealing their livestock and using that effort to fuel passion for the cause. I have an idea, go to the livestock auctions and use the monies to purchase the animals that are most probably going to slaughter. Do it legally! Try that, or perhaps DXE has tried that but no one donated monies to fund that program. I don’t think someone that is vegan should decide how I should live my life, what I should or should not eat. I find it hard to do the mental leap from humans to animals, I did not have to pay for my children, but DO have to purchase my animals….therefore, they are property. Some of the 4-H children raise breeding stock. Are you trying to say, we should NOT raise animals and let these animals die out, because without profit there would be NONE. By the way, when babies are around 3 months old, the mom’s pretty much are done feeding them and do a natural weaning, babies start to eat grain at a few weeks old, hay in a few days. We don’t “rip” them from their mother’s as you did the baby goat you stole and named Rain. I’d like to know if he is still alive. No one from your organization will confirm that. I’d like to know if you murdered him by stealing him and not being able to do what his caretakers and mother could have done and keep him alive. Wayne talks about his religious beliefs, hmmmm what God condones stealing? It is you and your agenda that is inciting hatred. Not the other way around. Idea, don’t tell people how they should live. We do live in a democracy the last time I checked.

  3. No, compassion is not a crime but trespassing and theft is. You want farm animals to live better? Lobby your local representatives for better animal welfare laws but don’t take matters into your own hands.

    1. How do you feel about the underground railroad? You ass kissers of the state are sad sacks. You act as if the law is some great sacred thing. It isn’t. Also, it takes around $100,000 to get a bill written and since this isn’t a true representational democracy we don’t get to vote on it. Politicians with vested interests and sorted associations do.