More than 1,200 animal rights activists raise awareness for farm conditions in weeklong conference

Matt Johnson/Courtesy

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Direct Action Everywhere, or DxE, hosted a weeklong Animal Liberation Conference, which garnered more than 1,200 activists and consisted of various protests in Berkeley and San Francisco, according to a press release.

Events included “The Ashes of Speciesism” on Thursday, the “Animal Liberation March” on Saturday, “Disrupt Berkeley” on Sunday and “Cube of Truth” on Monday. The conference will culminate Tuesday, according to DxE spokesperson Matt Johnson.

About 400 people attended the Ashes of Speciesism event at Old City Hall on Thursday and called upon Berkeley City Council to give consumers the right to know about the conditions farm animals face, according to DxE organizer Cassie King. Activists held a funeral procession for a piglet and spread the ashes of several other animals on city property.

“(The event) was to raise awareness about actual conditions that farmed animals are living in in supposedly humane farms,” King said. “A lot of Berkeley grocery stores claim everything they source is humane, but DxE investigations have found crowding, disease and cannibalism.”

An estimated 1,000 people attended the Animal Liberation March in San Francisco — “the largest animal rights event ever in SF Bay Area,” Johnson said. People wore paper animal hats while lighting colored smoke flares and playing music to draw attention to the “next chapter in social justice,” he added.

About 50 small groups dispersed around areas throughout Berkeley where animals and animal byproducts are commonly sold during Disrupt Berkeley. The event highlighted one of DxE’s goals — to “challenge the norms of violence” — King said.

Police were deployed for both The Ashes of Speciesism and the Animal Liberation March, Johnson said. No arrests were made, according to King.

Conference attendees came from different continents and across the Bay Area, King said. She also said DxE believes San Francisco and Berkeley are at the front lines of the animal rights movement, just as the two cities have been with past social justice movements.

According to a press release sent early Monday morning, activists displayed footage of “industrial violence” toward animals during Cube of Truth at Union Square in San Francisco. The press release stated that activists hoped bystanders would “reject animal exploitation” after coming into contact with the visual display.

In addition to the goals outlined in its demonstrations, DxE alleged in a press release that the Whole Foods grocery chain commits “consumer fraud” by marketing products with “misleading animal welfare statements” such as “range-grown” and “thoughtfully-raised.”

As of press time, Whole Foods could not be reached for comment.

“It’s not surprising to people that some places perpetuate animal cruelty,” King said. “But it is a surprise for Whole Foods, because they hold so closely to the idea of humane animal farming and perpetuate that myth.”

Alyssa Bernardino covers city government. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @alybernardino.

The image accompanying this article was incorrectly credited as a staff photo by Alyssa Bernardino. In fact, the image is a courtesy photo from Matt Johnson.