Former Baywatch star Alexandra Paul and co-defendant Alicia Santurio were found not guilty of misdemeanor theft after rescuing two suffering chickens from a transport truck outside a Foster Farms slaughterhouse in Livingston, California.
The incident, documented by animal protection organization Direct Action Everywhere, occurred in September 2021. Paul and Santurio identified two chickens who appeared to be sick and removed them from the truck and from the scene. The activists later named the birds Ethan and Jax. Unfortunately, because of his poor condition, Jax died four days later. But after extensive veterinary care, Ethan recovered and is now living at an animal sanctuary.
During the trial, veterinarian Sherstin Rosenberg testified that the chickens were lethargic, had poor appetites and pale combs, and were unable to walk.
“These were two extremely sick chickens,” said Dr. Rosenberg. “At the time I was concerned they might not survive. And they were infected with an extremely contagious coronavirus called infectious bronchitis virus. … They also were infected with two bacteria that can make human beings sick.”
If convicted, Paul and Santurio faced up to six months in jail, but despite the risks, both activists turned down five plea deals from the prosecution and chose to go to trial.
“When I think about the consequences for me, they are minimal compared to what the animals are going through,” Paul said.
The defense argued that Ethan’s and Jax’s ailments made them unfit for the food supply and, therefore, Foster Farms would’ve been unable to profit from the two birds. The jury agreed that the activists’ actions weren’t theft, and on March 17, 2023, they handed down a not-guilty verdict.
“We were acquitted because the jury believed that a sick animal should not go into the food consumers eat, and that Alicia and I were not only following our consciences, but we were following what we believed was the law against animal abuse,” said Paul. “I think the jury was horrified when they learned what terrible shape Ethan and Jax were in.”
The acquittal comes just six months after another groundbreaking case, in which activists were also acquitted at trial after taking piglets from a Smithfield Foods slaughterhouse in Utah.
“We are chipping away at the status quo that considers animals to be property,” Santurio said. “With time, the legal system will adapt to reflect the will of the public, a public that sees animals as individuals who deserve to be protected.”
How You Can Help Chickens
Jax and Ethan were in terrible shape when Paul and Santurio rescued them from the truck, but countless undercover investigations show that their condition was not out of the ordinary for birds in the commercial chicken industry.
Birds raised for meat are typically forced to live in overcrowded sheds, and they’re bred to grow so large so quickly that many can’t support their weight. Their legs give out, and the birds become unable to stand—much like Jax and Ethan. Because the litter in the sheds is rarely changed, the animals often suffer ammonia burns on their bellies and respiratory illnesses from the acrid air. These filthy, overcrowded conditions are the perfect breeding ground for disease.
We can all take action to help animals and protect human health by eliminating or reducing our consumption of chicken and other animal products. Download our free How to Eat Veg guide, and check out ChooseVeg.com for more information.