Five activists are facing 60 years in prison for removing a piglet they described as 'dying' from a factory farm in Utah.
The activists, who were working with animal rights network Direct Action Everywhere [DxE], are facing felony charges over the incident in March 2017.
The Utah Attorney General's Office filed the charges following the release of a video shot at Smithfield Foods’ Circle Four Farms in Milford. According to reports, the new charges include four felonies, each with a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison.
Charges were filed yesterday, accusing five men of stealing two three-week old piglets from the facility.
The indictment says DxE's 11-minute video was used by prosecutors to identify the five men, as well as the specific Smithfield location.
According to reports, cellphone records showing the men in the Milford vicinity at the time of the incident, were obtained by the FBI.
DxE Co-founder Wayne Hsiung - one of the five defendants - says these actions are part of an attempt to stop the public learning more about the conditions on factory farms.
He said: "Baby pigs are enduring mutilation, starvation, and abuse at Smithfield, and the company doesn’t want the public to know about it.
"This is an attempt to intimidate activists who are showing the public the truth about what happens in factory farms."
In a statement to Plant Based News, Smithfield said: "At Smithfield Foods, the care and safety of our animals is a top priority. In an abundance of concern for our animals’ wellbeing, we immediately launched an investigation and completed a third-party audit after learning of an illegally obtained undercover video alleging mistreatment and mishandling of animals on a company-owned hog farm in Milford, Utah.
"The audit results show no findings of animal mistreatment. Based on the review of our animal care experts, the video appears to be highly edited and even staged in an attempt to manufacture an animal care issue where one does not exist.
"The video features blatant inaccuracies and assertions, which could not be farther from the truth. The video’s creators, who claim to be animal care advocates, risked the life of the animal they stole and the lives of the animals living on our farms by trespassing and violating our strict biosecurity policy that prevents the spread of disease.
"This policy is particularly critical to the wellbeing of our piglets – the animals they claim to be rescuing."