Home Biology Former Berkeley mayoral candidate convicted for stealing newborn goat.

Former Berkeley mayoral candidate convicted for stealing newborn goat.

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Former Berkeley mayoral candidate convicted for stealing newborn goat.

Wayne Hsiung, founder of animal rights group Direct Action Everywhere, was convicted of two criminal offenses in North Carolina on December 6. Credit: Wayne for Mayor

Wayne Hsiung, the animal rights activist who unsuccessfully ran for mayor of Berkeley in 2020 was indicted on criminal charges this week for stealing baby goats from a North Carolina farm.

This is the first time Hsiung has been convicted of criminal charges even though he faces more than a dozen criminal charges for taking animals from private property in many states. Most of the other charges have been dropped or have not yet been brought to trial. During his mayoral campaign, Hsiung said he did not believe the prison term he might face would interfere with his ability to be an effective mayor.

The Transylvania Provincial High Court judge gave Hsiung a six to 17-month suspended prison sentence for theft, breaking and entering. Hsiung will also serve 24 months on supervised probation. The judge ordered Hsiung to pay $250 in compensation to the goat breeder he had stolen from.

Hsiung said he plans to appeal.

Hsiung had hoped to argue in court that he had a legal basis for taking the 6-day-old goats from Sospiro Ranch in February 2018 because he believed the goats were suffering and could face a cruel death if they were slaughtered. Direct Action Everywhere, the Berkeley-based Hsiung animal rights group it co-founded in 2013, has carried out several what it calls “open rescues” across the US in part to advance this legal agenda and draw attention to what it sees as animal cruelty on factory farms. .

But most courts do not allow the concept of a right to rescue to be introduced, Hsiung and a group of sympathetic lawyers discussed on the September panel at the Animal Liberation Conference in Auckland.

This was what happened in North Carolina. When Hsiung, who represented himself, attempted to put forth some of the philosophy behind his decision to take the goats into opening arguments, district attorneys in the case contested and Judge Peter Knight upheld the objections, according to the Transylvania Times.

“During opening statements last Thursday, Supreme Court Justice Peter Knight received many of the objections of prosecutors Robert Brackett and Jason Hayes, and Hsiung was unable to finish his opening statements to the jury,” the newspaper reported.

Drawing of a man in the lawsuit presenting arguments in court
A sketch by artist Wayne Hsiung presenting his closing argument to jurors in Transylvania on December 6. Credit: Kitty Jones / Direct Action Everywhere

The judge also approved the plaintiff’s pretrial petitions to exclude testimony from a vet who wanted to discuss the goats’ condition, according to the Transylvania Times.

The newspaper reported that “Knight also rejected a proposal from Hsiung… He sought to dismiss his accusations on animal character grounds and argued that ‘a conscious non-human animal is not property subject to the state theft law’.”

Hsuing said in his December 6 Substack newsletter that his conviction was in fact a victory and was part of DxE’s long-term plan to draw attention to his case. “The most important thing, going back to the founding days of DxE in early 2013, is that we harness oppression to bring about change,” he wrote.

Hsiung wrote, “We have seen time and time again that when movements prove flexible, efforts to suppress them can be used to move their power.” “The reason, quite simply, is that there is strength in sacrifice. When we endure without violence the pain imposed upon us by the state or industry, and continue to advance our cause, it generates tremendous sympathy in the public.”

The trial centered around an action by Hsiung and other DxE activists in February 2018. They traveled for the night to Sospiro Farm, owned by Curtis and Susan Burnside, in Asheville. The event was streamed live on Facebook. He admitted that this was the second time Hsiung had broken into the farm to take goats. In this case, Hsiung can be seen entering a barn with a mother’s goats and her two six-day-old children. Although Hsiung criticized the size of the pen, it was dry, covered with fresh straw and large enough for Hsiung to enter and bend downward. (In contrast, conditions on other farms DxE has entered are less extensive.) Hsiung acknowledges in the video that this Sospiro farm is not a factory farm but a small operation. He goes on to make some generalizations about the cruelty of killing goats.

The farm owner said in a rebuttal on his website that Sospiro Farm does not raise goats to be killed in the first place. She sells goats to people who want to raise herds for land management or for breeding or for people in 4-H and FFA. However, the farm does sell goat meat, according to its website.

While at the pen, Hsiung said, “It is heartbreaking to take this child away from his mother. We will say we are sorry to this mother and tell her that we will give her child a decent life.”

“His mother, Kneipp Knapp, cried for several days and was beside herself searching for her missing child,” Burnside wrote on his website.

DxE later said a vet determined that the baby goats had pneumonia. Burnside said the goats were healthy in the barn, but Hsiung took them out in the rain and then fed them improperly, causing the goats to suction and contract pneumonia.

The goats that run straight all over the place are called Rain. The goat breeder she was stolen from had named him Freddy. Credit: Direct Action Everywhere

In the video, as the DxE members speed into the car, the little goat is in the front seat looking healthy and alert. jump around.

DxE was later dubbed the goat Rain. Curtis Burnside had named him Freddy.

Burnside said on his website that Hsiung partially stole the goats as a way to raise money for DxE. Berkleeside asked DxE what happened to the baby goats and how much money the organization had raised around the operation.

While animal rescue is a key part of many of DxE’s most exciting videos, Berkeleyside reported in October 2020 that DxE spends only a small portion of the money it collects on caring for them, according to the 990 nonprofit, which must be provided by the Internal Revenue Service. In 2019, the organization spent 2.46% of its budget ($17,935) of $726,692 raised on “animal welfare.”

Hsiung told Berkleeside that this is normal in motion. Most animal rescue organizations only pay immediate vet bills for animals. Hsiung said he believes DxE has actually spent a larger percentage of its money on direct animal care than most organizations, just not for long-term care.

Update: 5:19 PM DxE said the goats are alive and well at an animal sanctuary. Company spokesman Matt Johnson said the organization did not mention the location.

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