On Wednesday, May 21st, The Rescue Service Action 12 appeared before Sundsvalls court on charges of intention to steal. The group consists of Simon Westerberg, Pelle Strindlund and Henrik Grubbström. They were sentenced to pay fines for trying to rescue and relocate ten battery hens from a farm outside of Östersund. The group pleaded not guilty.
-We should have been found not guilty. To save animals that are tortured and mistreated is a moral obligation, says Simon Westerberg, 24, a medicine student at the University of Umeå.
A battery hen lives confined to the point that she cannot even raise her wings. The people behind this treatment ought to face charges instead, according to Pelle Strindlund, 31, who previously served a prison term for removing hens from a battery farm.
It was in October of last year that the group planned on rescuing ten battery hens, a number chosen since a woman from Medelpad had offered to care for that many and provide them with new, better lives. The activists, however, were arrested by police before they had a chance to liberate any animals.
Just before Easter this year, The Rescue Service Action 13 was able to rescue ten hens from a farm outside Örnsköldsvik instead. That action has not led to prosecution.
-It was a great feeling to watch the ten hens start their new lives in their new home, says Simon Westerberg regarding the latest action. Westerberg has previously liberated rabbits from a breeder supplying meat producers.
-Modern egg production facilities constitute large scale animal cruelty. And when one’s government doesn’t care, well, ordinary citizens have to intervene and do anything they can to provide better lives for the hens, says Pelle Strindlund.
Activists arrested outside of hen farm(Land Lantbruk)
Animal Rights Activists Prosecuted in Jämtland (Land Lantbruk)
Prison Threat Looms over Northern Activists (Land Lantbruk)
Animal Rights Activists Avoided Prison Sentence (Dagbladet)
Fines for Theft of Hens (Land Lantbruk)
He Fights with Beak and Claws for the Rights of Hens (Sundsvalls tidning)
Those of us who planned to carry out Action 12 (even though we anticipated it would be number 13, which could have affected our luck) were myself, Simon Westerberg of Umeå, and Henrik Grubbström of Sundsvall. We also brought along Pelle Strindlund to be our driver.
We planned to reconnoitre Pelle & Lisa’s—a hen farm with twenty-two thousand prisoners located near Östersund—during Thursday evening and then return later that same night for the action. After several hours spent searching, the building we thought to be the hen farm proved to be a crawfish farm (hint for future actions: don’t rely on black and white photocopied maps).
While looking about we spoke briefly to a local hunter. He appeared notably suspicious of us non-locals walking about the woods. We decided to call off the action since we had no clue as to where the hen farm was located (and could think of no innocent premise to ask the locals).
Shortly after we began our drive back a police car with his beacons flashing came towards us. We made jokes that perhaps they were looking for us.
Well, they were.
When we were pulled over we quickly decided to cooperate and reveal our intentions—partially to act in accordance with the regulations of The Rescue Service (despite our no longer making up a formal action group), and partially since it would have been difficult to explain our luggage: ventilated boxes, crow bars, protective clothing etc.
We had to wait on the side of the road for a long time before they told us that we were to be arrested on suspicion of "destruction of property, no, by the way, gross destruction of property, otherwise we can’t take you in" (policeman’s words).
They did not even trust us to follow them back to the station; instead they sent for backup and one of the officers drove our rental car.
We were all surprised when we learned that we had been arrested and thus could be held for up to 72 hours. (The crime heading was changed to "Attempted alternatively preparing for grand larceny").
There is not much to tell about the holding cells—everyone who has even been inside one knows roughly what they are like and how tedious they are.
We sat in separate cells with nothing much to do. One of us gained access to a book, another had been able to bring his cell phone (which at least let him keep track of the time), and one of us wore his watch, which he used to scratch messages such as "don’t eat meat" and our web site, onto the walls. (Regardless how one formally considers property damage, this act of vandalism ought to be forgiven considering the circumstances).
The vegan food was edible, though very minimal and dominated by salad.
After 21 hours we were finally allowed to leave the police department at Östersund and return to Sundsvall.
While on the road, we contacted several media outlets, and the news became fairly big both in Östersund, Sundsvall and Umeå. Västerbottenskuriren carried it as a front page article with headlines something along the lines of: "Intended to liberate hens—known activist from Umeå arrested at hen farm in Östersund". A local news show on Swedish Television broadcast a report which I have not seen but in which apparently both Pelle and the farm owner (whose name is also Pelle) and the hunter who "discovered" us had the chance to say a few words. The broadcast also featured images of obviously maltreated hens.
In conclusion, it feels sad that we had to cancel the action and that none of the hens were given the opportunity to a better life. But the welcoming homes are still there, and the media attention is likely the most complete any hen liberation has ever received.
The Rescue Service
Oct 21, 2007
20 hens rescued
Nov 27, 2006
12 hens rescued
May 2, 2004
120 hens rescued
April 5, 2004
39 hens rescued
April 27, 2003
April 14, 2003
102 hens rescued
October 11, 2002
0 hens rescued
August 12, 2002
17 hens rescued
June 2, 2002
38 hens rescued
April 14, 2002
12 hens rescued
March 27, 2002
16 hens rescued
March 17, 2002
21 rabbits rescued
Aug. 5, 2001
Feb. 21, 2001
6 hens rescued
Dec. 14, 2000
3 hens rescued
Maj 7, 2000
36 hens rescued
Feb. 15, 2000
5 hens rescued
Oct. 28, 1999
24 hens rescued