“This photo is the definition of non-violent civil disobedience.” - Matt Braun
Before I became an activist, I never thought that I would chain myself to the gate of an operation responsible for hatching, raising and murdering millions of ducks a year. I never imagined that when the police gave me the option to leave or get arrested, that I would look at them calmly and say “get arrested.”
On 6/3/19, I was arrested alongside 75 animal rights activists for demanding that the police enforce the law. Whistleblowers have revealed to us hours of horrifying footage taken within this farm documenting criminal cases of animal cruelty. Under California Penal Code 597 it is a felony to torture, torment, overload, mutilate, deprive of necessary sustenance or cruelly kill any animal. Grotesque footage highlighting the abuse occurring inside of this farm has been turned over to the proper authorities again and again, yet they refused to enforce the law that they have sworn to impose.
California Penal Code 597e states that if an animal is impounded and does not have access to food or water for more than 12 consecutive hours then any person may enter the property in which they are being held and provide them with the assistance they need to survive. Since law enforcement wouldn’t help them, we did. One team of activists removed ducks from the slaughter line and placed them safely on the ground, then turned the machine off before bike locking their own necks in place of the birds. One worker turned it on again, nearly killing one of our activists who was hospitalized later that night. That team then moved to the front gate, where myself and seven other activists had chained ourselves to the gate and held the bodies of dead ducks that has been thrown in a dumpster labeled “inedible”.
Over 500 activists joined us in the coming hours, along with dozens of police in riot gear sporting batons and a helicopter that watched our every move. We sat there, singing for animal liberation and pleading with the officers to do their job and start an animal cruelty investigation immediately on the farm we were occupying. They refused. 5 hours passed before an officer announced that anyone who didn’t vacate the property would be arrested. He gave us five minutes to move. People did move. Dozens of activists peacefully crossed the streets holding up flowers and sat down in front of us, locking arms. The officers began arresting us one by one. Once they had removed everyone without a chain around their neck they moved onto us. They began taking the diseased birds from our arms.
That day I cradled the bodies of two baby ducks. Ducklings raised for their flesh are killed 7-8 weeks after hatching. Babies. They are killed as babies. These aquatic animals never had the pleasure of experiencing their natural habitat. They never got to swim. They spent their entire lives walking on wire floors and struggling to reach food and water. They were impounded in sheds with thousands of other individuals suffering the same fate. Their freedom came when they were finally able to escape the bodies they had been imprisoned in, and that is a tragedy.
Before the officers took them away, I promised them that we are transforming a system of violence into unconditional love. When asked, I handed them over; the memory of them never leaving my mind. I knew that revolutionary history was taking place and in that I found peace. An officer came to each of us and said “ You have an option. You can either leave now and not get arrested or get arrested. What is your choice?” The feeling of strength built as I watched each of my friends say “get arrested.” Then, I heard the words announce themselves from my own being.
My friends locks were cut one by one, releasing the chains from their necks. Every time someone stood up the crowd of activists on the other side announced their love for them in a wave of cheers and shouts of “I love you!” I held hands with the women by my side who I now consider family. We looked into each others eyes and whispered “we did it.”
While we had chained ourselves to the front gate, our friends had rescued 32 ducklings.
My turn. The officer put safety glasses on me and explained to me what they were about to do. He asked me if I was okay. I said yes. I closed my eyes and tilted my head up. I called reiki into my being. I sent love to myself, to the officers, to the activists, to the birds and to the world. I felt the chain lift off my neck as the bolt cutter began to break the lock that had kept me in place. “Are you okay?” the officer asked again. I hadn’t expected them to be so kind to us. “Yes” I said again. I was okay. I wasn’t the one being enslaved in the sheds behind us. I wasn’t the one hanging by my feet on the slaughter line. I wasn’t the one being torn apart from my mother. I wasn’t the one being repeatedly raped and impregnated, only to have my babies torn from me. I wasn’t the one who’s only chance at freedom was if the truck sending me to my demise crashed and my cage door opened. I am a human being, and with that title comes an enormous amount of privilege. If even a fraction of what is being done to non-human animals in the animal agriculture industry was done to me the person responsible would be in prison.
And that’s not what I want. I don’t want them to go to prison. Having experienced jail for just two days, I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. I want them to be shown love. I want this system that puts some humans in a position where their only way to survive is to kill animals to completely transform. I want year-round veganic greenhouses to replace all factory farms and slaughterhouses. I want workers to feel respected and loved each and every day. I want the non-human animals trapped in this system to be free. I want them to experience love and happiness. I want the earth to smile as the children that walk upon her live in a blissful state of being. I want each and every one of us to be at peace.
That is what I am spending every moment of my existence creating. That is why I started the non-profit organization PEACE: Promoting Equality, Acceptance & Compassion Everywhere. That is why I moved to Iowa, to bring PEACE to the heart of animal agriculture. That’s why we’re opening Plant - a vegan restaurant and community event center aimed at creating a loving space for all peoples. That is why all surplus profits Plant receives will be put towards creating a sanctuary from a factory farm. That’s why we’re building an eco village from the ground up and establishing the first ever University of PEACE.
When the lock snapped and the chain fell to the ground, I opened my eyes and stood up. The crowd around me erupted with light. I have such gratitude in my heart for each individual who makes this community what it is. I am thankful to every person who gave me their love and compassion and gratitude. With my hands zip tied together, I turned to the crowd and said “I love you all.”
I am all in peace.
I am love.
Who are you?