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Whole Foods Gets Restraining Order on Animal Rights Activists to Stop Protests at Berkeley Store

by DxE
Citing Investigations of Animal Cruelty, Activists Plan to Escalate Demonstrations Despite Court Ruling
[Wayne Hsiung talks to a sheriff’s deputy at a demonstration at a Petaluma Whole Foods supplier in May.]

September 21, 2018, Berkeley, CA — Former Northwestern law professor Wayne Hsiung and the animal rights network Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) that he co-founded, along with dozens of unnamed individuals and affiliates, are forbidden from stepping onto Whole Foods property at its 3000 Telegraph Avenue location in Berkeley, California. So says the Alameda County Superior Court, which granted a restraining order requested by Whole Foods Market California Inc. seeking to stop protests against the company

Beginning in 2014, Hsiung and DxE have undertaken multiple undercover investigations of Whole Foods suppliers, exposing what they call criminal animal cruelty at farms that include Diestel Turkey Ranch, Pitman Family Farms (Mary’s Free Range Chicken) and Petaluma Farms. The investigations have led to thousands of complaints against Whole Foods on social media and protests across the country against both Whole Foods and its parent company, Amazon.

Earlier this year Hsiung was arrested and charged with “threatening bodily injury” after asking questions at a Colorado Whole Foods about the conditions at the company’s meat suppliers; a video of the incident posted on Facebook was viewed over 3.4 million times (and shared by the musician Moby). Hsiung says the new suit is an effort to prevent exposure of disturbing animal abuse at Whole Foods farms.

“Over the past 4 years, we’ve asked Whole Foods and Amazon to sit down and discuss our findings, which are shocking and contradictory to everything the company claims about the treatment of animals at its farms,” Hsiung said. “The companies have refused all conversations and are now resorting to lawsuits and trumped-up criminal charges.”

Hsiung says internal memos from Whole Foods that were secretly passed to DxE by insiders at the company, as well as personal correspondence with Whole Foods CEO John Mackey, demonstrate the company’s intolerance to criticism. The company’s acquisition by Amazon, DxE activists say, has led to a new strategy: stopping activists through litigation. Hsiung says the internal memos show the company’s efforts to characterize peaceful protests as violent. He is currently facing prosecution in three separate matters relating to investigations of Amazon or Whole Foods suppliers.

Despite the growing number of charges, Hsiung and DxE are determined to continue taking nonviolent direct action to demand transparency from Whole Foods and Amazon and expose their lies to the public about how the animals at their suppliers farms are raised.

“This is part of a disturbing pattern of corporations using the legal process to stifle dissent,” attorney Sonya Z. Mehta of civil rights firm Siegel, Yee & Brunner said. “Whistleblowers should be heard, not targeted.”

Hsiung says that Compassionate Bay, a Bay Area-based organization devoted to animal rights, consumer rights, and environmental protection, has recently proposed “Right To Know” legislation to address these issues and to counter efforts by corporations to shroud the production of meat in secrecy. In the past two weeks the proposed legislation has been endorsed by multiple candidates in San Francisco and Berkeley, including San Francisco Board of Supervisors candidate Matt Haney and Berkeley City Council candidates Mary Kay Lacey and Igor Tregub, along with current Berkeley City Council member Kate Harrison.

Compassionate Bay says this first-of-its-kind legislation would require that major retailers disclose to customers whether the meat they sell comes from factory farms. “The public has the right to know where their meat comes from,” Compassionate Bay co-founder Priya Sawhney said. “The future of our planet is at stake, and we can’t make informed decisions for our families without transparency.”


The investigatory work of Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) has been featured in the New York Times, the Washington Post, a viral Glenn Greenwald exposé, and hundreds more.
Whole Foods Market
3000 Telegraph Avenue at Ashby
§Whole Foods Summons and Complaint
by DxE
Filed in Alameda County Superior Court. Temporary restraining order granted on Friday September 21, 2018.
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