LATON, Calif. - Animal rights activists are heading home after protesting at a Laton dairy Tuesday.
Dozens of demonstrators with Direct Action Everywhere gathered for a vigil at Zonneveld Dairies on Cerini Avenue.
The group admitted to stealing a calf from the dairy because it claims the calf was neglected and they want to raise awareness about animal cruelty.
Activists sang songs with the lyrics, "no more pain and slaughter" as they held signs that read "free them all." They are referring to calves who demonstrators claim are living in poor conditions. The group provided photos and video showing alleged abuse, but we've chosen not to air them.
"They're put in these little cages that don't have any bedding. They have slats so manure can fall through but these animals are in there for 3 months so the manure doesn't fall through completely. It piles up," said Alexandra Paul, with Direct Action Everywhere.
Paul, a former Baywatch actress, was among a group of women with Direct Action Everywhere who admits to sneaking onto Zonneveld Dairies six times this last year to investigate the conditions.
The group admitted to stealing Roselynn, a calf who activists allege was near death, underweight, with pneumonia, infections, and a maggot infestation.
"There is some legal precedence called legal necessity which is you can break a lower law to maintain a higher law. Even when we are little children, people teach us, when you see an animal suffering, you should go help them," said Julianne Perry, of Direct Action Everywhere.
The Fresno County Sheriff's Office said the dairy did not want to press charges for the misdemeanor theft of a calf, and said there's no proof of any wrongdoing by the dairy.
"We have no reports or evidence to show that animal cruelty is going on here. So, that's kind of where the buck stops with us," said sheriff's spokesman, Tony Botti.
Ryan Jacobsen, CEO of Fresno County Farm Bureau said, "We have individuals trying to spread a message that don't understand these operations, don't understand these farms and what kind of care and comfort they do provide the animals. So, when we see instances like this, it's just a reminder of how important it is to do agricultural education out in the urban areas."
Protesters drove in from all over California, including Berkeley, San Jose, and San Diego.
Zonneveld Dairies is a supplier to Land O' Lakes, one of the nation's biggest producers of butter and cheese.
Zonneveld Dairies released this statement:
Zonneveld Dairies is a 3rd generation family farm that prides itself in the quality of care we provide our animals. The passion for taking care of animals has been passed down by my grandfather who started the business in 1968. He always taught us that if we take care of the cows they will take care of you, which is why we use a science based approach along with a professional veterinarian and nutritionist to ensure we are adhering to the highest industry standards. Animal care has been and always will be a top priority for Zonneveld Dairies.
- Andy Zonneveld