Nearly 100 protesters arrested outside Petaluma duck farm
Nearly 100 animal welfare protesters were arrested Monday, hours after descending onto a west Petaluma duck farm as part of an organized demonstration, authorities said.
Hundreds of activists with the Direct Action Everywhere animal rights group arrived by the busloads at Reichardt Duck Farm on Middle Two Rock Road around 10 a.m., some chaining themselves together by the neck at the main gate of the property.
Local and state police made a show of force with more than 50 officers, including about three dozen in riot gear, stationed around the property. They arrested 10 demonstrators who walked onto the farm to remove birds, the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office said.
By about 4 p.m., deputies had made 88 more arrests, mostly for trespassing. Wilmar firefighters had to cut the farm’s gate to remove some of the protesters.
The animal rights group came prepared with water, food and music, with the bulk of protesters staying on the property until around 5 p.m.
Cassie King, a group organizer currently facing seven felony charges in Sonoma County related to previous animal-rights protests, said the demonstration was intended to spur Sonoma County authorities to take action against the farm for alleged animal cruelty.
“Whistleblower footage has come forward from this facility (showing) clear animal cruelty,” she said. “Authorities in Sonoma County have ignored those reports, so activists have come together to take matters into their own hands.”
In 2014, protesters with animal-rights group Mercy for Animals accused the Reichardt Duck Farm of animal cruelty after one of its members got a job at the longtime ranch and secretly videotaped what they said was evidence of mistreatment. The video showed employees searing off ducklings’ bills to prevent pecking injuries and swinging the ducks by their necks, which activists say is in violation of state law.
The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office investigated the facility following the video’s release, but authorities said they turned up no evidence of animal cruelty. However, a Mercy for Animals veterinarian who was invited to observe said investigators did not spend enough time at the farm to actually witness the alleged abuses, and did not tour many of the farm’s buildings.
King said the group had seen additional footage taken as recently as Sunday that showed what the group describes as continued abuses at the Reichardt Duck Farm. She attributed the large turnout at Monday’s protest to anger over previous arrests of animal-rights activists in Sonoma County.
“Hundreds more people have been inspired to come out and demand they investigate animal cruelty and not animal-rights activists,” she said. “Cracking down on peaceful activists, grandmothers and teachers and children, is only going to make this movement grow in response.”
Shirstin Rosenberg, a veterinarian associated with Direct Action Everywhere, claimed video footage from inside the farm showed ducks that were too sick to stand on their own and were unable to access food and water.
Several calls to the farm went unreturned Monday.
Sonoma County Farm Bureau warned its members early Monday that about a half dozen buses with members of Direct Action Everywhere were in Petaluma. Bureau staff members also went to a Petaluma poultry ranch visited last year by the activist group to help farmers in case the activists arrived, said Tawny Tesconi, the bureau’s executive director.
The bureau has developed a system for alerting its members when animal rights groups come to town so that they can close their gates and take measures to try to prevent trespassing, Tesconi said.