California

Activists lock themselves to duck farm conveyor belt. Worker turns it on, CA cops say

Protesters at a Petaluma, California, duck farm locked themselves to a processing center conveyor belt before an employee turned it on, injuring one, police say. About 100 people were arrested at the protest.
Protesters at a Petaluma, California, duck farm locked themselves to a processing center conveyor belt before an employee turned it on, injuring one, police say. About 100 people were arrested at the protest. Screengrab from KBCW video on KPIX

An animal rights activist says he was “almost decapitated” Monday after a duck farm conveyor belt he and other protesters had locked themselves onto activated, KGO reported.

“I was feeling my life leave my body, as I was struggling to get out of that lock,” said Thomas Chiang, according to the station. He was later treated and released from a hospital.

Sonoma County deputies say an employee at Reichardt Duck Farm in Petaluma, California, turned on the conveyor in a processing center after about a dozen protesters had attached themselves to it using bicycle locks, The Santa Rosa Press Democrat reported.

Deputies reported that farm officials said an employee who was outside at the time activated the conveyor, “unaware” the protesters had locked themselves to it, KGO reported.

But Chiang said he suspects employees were angry at protesters for interrupting their work, according to the station. He also said he realized that chaining himself to farm machinery might be dangerous, but felt he had to take a stand.

About 100 activists were arrested Monday at a protest at the farm organized by Direct Action Everywhere, an animal rights group, KNTV reported. The organization said 600 people in all took part in the protest.

The Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office put the number of protesters closer to 200 to 300, KGO reported in an earlier story.

Along with the processing line protest, activists removed some ducks from the property while others chained themselves to the front gate of the farm, KPIX reported.

Direct Action Everywhere, an activist group based out of Berkeley, protested at Zonneveld Dairies in Laton in November 2017. The group says the dairy, a supplier for Land O'Lakes, mistreats its animals.



Direct Action Everywhere says it was protesting animal cruelty at the farm, which it said slaughters more than one million ducks annually, KNTV reported.

“Our culture does involve eating a lot of animals and that’s the way it’s been for a long time,” said Paul Picklesimer of Direct Action Everywhere, KPIX reported. “But so many things that we couldn’t imagine that weren’t possible 20 years ago, they happened and they happened faster than we could have imagined.”

Representatives of Reichardt Duck Farm did not respond to requests for comment, KGO and The Santa Rosa Press Democrat reported.

On Wednesday, the jailed activists were released while the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office decides whether to prosecute them on trespassing or other charges, The Santa Rosa Press Democrat reported.

Don Sweeney has been a newspaper reporter and editor in California for more than 25 years. He has been a real-time reporter based at The Sacramento Bee since 2016.

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