Whole Foods has been granted a restraining order against 150 vegan activists - including some who carried out in-store protests to bring attention to the treatment of animals at farms supplying the chain.
The list includes former Northwestern law professor Wayne Hsiung and the animal rights network Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) that he co-founded, along with numerous unnamed individuals and affiliates.
The Alameda County Superior Court decrees that those on the list are forbidden to step onto Whole Foods property at its Telegraph Avenue location in Berkeley. DxE had reportedly been planning a week-long occupation of the chain's Berkeley outlets - which wil now be impossible under the terms of the order.
"Beginning in 2014, Hsiung and DxE have undertaken multiple undercover investigations of Whole Foods and Amazon suppliers, exposing what they call criminal animal cruelty at farms that include Diestel Turkey Ranch, Pitman Family Farms (Mary’s Free Range Chicken), Petaluma Farms, and Smithfield's Circle Four," said a DxE statement sent to Plant Based News
"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."
Arrested after asking questions
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 earlier this year, in an incident viewed more than 3.4 million times.
Hsiung says he believes 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 added.
"The companies have refused all conversations and are now resorting to lawsuits and trumped-up criminal charges."
Hsiung - and DxE - believe Whole Foods' strategy is to 'crush activists through litigation' - but pledge to continue campaigning.
"This is part of a disturbing pattern of corporations using the legal process to stifle dissent,” said attorney Sonya Z. Mehta of civil rights firm Siegel, Yee & Brunner, which is representing the activists, in a statement sent to PBN.
"Whistleblowers should be heard, not targeted."
A Whole Foods' spokesperson said: "DxE members have repeatedly entered our stores and property to conduct demonstrations that disrupt customers and team members by blocking access to our aisles, departments, and cash registers, interfering with our business and putting the safety of both customers and team members at risk."