On Sunday, September 17, as we've reported, the local animal activist group Denver Baby Animal Save posted a video about what it characterizes as a rescue of three chickens from Long Shadow Farm in Berthoud. Larry and Kristin Ramey, the co-owners of the farm, call it something else: theft that involved a demonstration they believe was staged as a diversion, "terrible" music, undercover operatives, lies and taking advantage of an eight-year-old. In contrast, Direct Action Everywhere [DxE], a group affiliated with Denver Baby Animal Save, is touting a "landmark" action that disrupted a "slaughterhouse exhibition."
A release about the event from DxE, which was highlighted in a recent Westword post about an FBI raid in search of "rescued" pigs, is on view below and includes a link to more videos. But first, here's a recap from the Rameys' point of view.
Long Shadow Farm's website describes it as "a small, family farm in beautiful Berthoud, Colorado. We specialize in pastured poultry and grass fed lamb, and occasionally dabble in preserving food, and processing meat on the farm. We love happy, healthy, local food, raised humanely and with care."
A specialty of Long Shadow Farm is chicken harvesting, with representatives of the enterprise regularly teaching poultry processing classes to those who want to raise birds for meat and eggs. However, a Boulder Daily Camera article about one such session, published prior to a May 20 event, appears to have put Long Shadow Farm on the radar of animal-rights demonstrators. In a website post that went live shortly after the Camera piece, the farm shared a tweet from one advocate that reads: "This group teaches how to kill birds in front of a live audience. Anyone up for a disruption?"
Kristen Ramey says this tweet was brought to her attention by the Colorado Chickens Facebook group. "They've got about 10,000 members from all over the state — everyone from people who have a couple of backyard chickens to folks like us, who raise larger volumes for poultry production," she says. "It's an amazing and very supportive community of people, and some of them, interestingly enough, are associated with the vegan movement. But they're not supportive of vegans who are causing trouble with other people, and they let us know that trouble could be coming our way."
Aside from some online rumblings, however, nothing came of this warning on May 20 or for months thereafter. Kristen notes, "They gave us enough time to think nothing was going to happen, that these guys weren't going to show up. And then they did," on the 17th, beginning just shy of 10 a.m.
Larry picks up the story from there. "This group sent four people onto the farm in the guise of being helpers," he says. "That happens a lot — people who want to learn how to do this on their own volunteer. But then a big group showed up and started their terrible singing and guitar playing outside the farm. I went out there to talk to them and said, 'You can do this, but you have to stay off the property.' But none of them wanted to engage with me."
Once the demonstrators "refused to talk to me," he continues, "I got on the phone with the Larimer County Sheriff's Office. I thought, I need to get the sheriff out here and make sure this doesn't escalate into something stupid. I wanted the sheriff to move them off our property so they didn't interfere with our customers, because the last thing you want to do when you're driving a horse trailer is deal with a bunch of idiots in the way."
In the meantime, something else was happening that Larry only heard about afterward. The supposed volunteers "asked to hold a bird," he notes. "They were looking at some, and I said, 'I'm not going to give you these, because they'll cut you up' — and these people were obviously rookies. So I sent my daughter, who's eight, into the barn and said, 'Let them pick up some of the nicer chickens.' And those were the ones they took."
Two of the birds were the property of the farm, while the third belonged to a client. The next time they were seen, it was in this Facebook video:
Larry stresses that the protest itself didn't bother him, "but it irritates me that they lied to me and got near my kid." As for why he decided to get law enforcement involved, he acknowledges that "I couldn't care less about somebody stealing $50 worth of chickens off the farm. But the next thing these people could do is escalate to taking somebody's sheep or cow. Some people might react with violence about that, and I want these people shut down before it gets to that point. We don't need anybody shooting each other over a cow or a chicken. That's just dumb."
No charges have been pressed against any of the protesters thus far, but David Moore, public information officer for the Larimer County Sheriff's Office, confirms that deputies "made contact with many individuals who were not granted permission to be on the property," located on the 100 block of Bothun Road in Berthoud, "and refused to leave." Moore adds that LCSO personnel is currently "investigating multiple felonies, including trespassing, attempted theft and theft of livestock."
Kristin doubts that the activists will be difficult to track down, since they identify themselves in the Facebook video, not to mention the press release. In the meantime, she says, "We've thought of some security measures, and we're going to have to put them in place now," to prevent animal grabs from happening again.
For his part, Larry sees some common ground between the farm's philosophy and that of Denver Baby Animal Save.
"At the root of it, they're not all that different from us, which is what we find ironic," he allows. "We started this farm because we think confined animals and feed operations are awful and the conditions these animals live in are terrible. I'm not a fan of PETA [People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals], but if you go to their website and look at those videos of how animals are treated, or if you go to Greeley and see 8,000 cows living on Poop Mountain getting ready to be fed into the slaughterhouses...well, we don't support that, and we're trying to provide an alternative for people. But there are places where we draw the line."
Animals "should live as they were designed to live, out in the open and as close to natural as possible," he continues. "But these people equate animals to humans. There's no difference in their mind, and when you start from that position, you get to some pretty ridiculous end points — like, 'Killing a chicken is murder.' And I'm like, 'Okay, dude. You're out there.'"
DxE couldn't feel more differently, as is made clear in the aforementioned release. Read it here and click to access additional videos from the Long Shadow Farm action.
Direct Action Everywhere release:
In Landmark Open Rescue, Animal Advocates Disrupt Slaughterhouse Exhibition
Saving a life, or stealing property? Witnesses say Long Shadow's welfare claims are fraudulent.
September 18, 2017 Berthoud, CO — Animal rights activists with Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) disrupted a public slaughter exhibition at Long Shadow Farms on Sunday morning, holding a vigil and rescuing chickens who were moments away from being killed. Demonstrators sang while four activists walked on and off the facility, carrying chickens to safety. They say that their footage shows animal abuse at the farm, which doubles as a slaughterhouse for area animal farmers.
The disruption took place during an event which Long Shadow promoted on social media as a chance for the public to learn how to “process” chickens and turkeys. While the owners reportedly believe that they are setting a high standard for animal welfare, DxE activists felt differently.
"Many of the animals who are killed at Long Shadow come from relatively small farms, farms that people expect to be the most humane," said DxE organizer Logan Howerter, who rescued a hen. "Paradoxically, because this operation is smaller than others, it escapes the few regulations that apply to animals killed for food, leading to incredible violence." In an effort to dispel what they call the "Humane Myth," the activists selected a business that advertises "pastured poultry" and "happy animals." DxE’s footage shows fully conscious turkeys and chickens killed using inverted cones, sometimes convulsing for minutes after their throats are slit. In the scene, dozens of other birds wait in cages to be killed while the activists peacefully walk off the farm holding rescued animals.
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"If you are trying to take good care of someone, you don’t slit their throat, period," said DxE rescuer Hana Low. "There is no humane way to kill someone who wants to live, whether they are a dog, a chicken, or a human."
DxE says that their actions on Sunday morning were an example of "Open Rescue," a growing trend in the Animal Rights community whereby activists document conditions and rescue animals without attempting to shield their identities. Open Rescue has made local and national headlines recently, but this action was unusual in that it took place during daylight hours, while workers were still at the facility.
DxE maintains that, although animals are currently considered property, laws should be changed to grant them legal personhood. "If we were to pay for these animals, we’d be buying into the idea that they are property, and buying into the system that promotes violence against them," said DxE rescuer Kelly Landreth. "Saving them is a political statement, designed to challenge the idea that animals are ours to use." None of the activists have been arrested thus far.
"When we see that these animals are literally about to be killed, we have an obligation to intervene,” said DxE activist Eva Hamer. "Rescued animals are taken to the vet, then to a safe place where they can live out their natural lives in peace."