In the early hours of February 15, 2000, three women broke into a battery hen farm in Jonsered, outside Gothenburg. The feminists, Åsa Niklasson, Karna Rusek and Helena Eriksson, brought five hens out of their cages and drove them to a new home. Afterwards, they filed an official complaint against the battery hen farm for crimes against the Animal Protection Act.
On February 18, 2003 (almost exactly three years after the action), Helena, Karna and Åsa appeared at Mölndals district court. The prosecutor motioned for fines and probation. The action group pleaded not guilty. The court’s verdict, however, was arbitrary conduct. Helena was sentenced to pay a fine of 4000 SEK plus 500 SEK payable to a special fund for victims of crimes. Åsa was sentenced to pay a fine of 2000 SEK plus 500 SEK payable to the same fund. Karna was sentenced to pay a fine of 1200 SEK plus 500 SEK to the fund for victims.
An appeal was filed against the verdict and Mölndals district court announced that the prosecution against the three activists of The Rescue Service Action Group 2 would be dismissed.
Originally, Mölndals district court changed its classification of the crime to arbitrary conduct since the group did not take the hens for their own profit, but instead handed the hens to a third party. The verdicts for all three women were fines. Arbitrary conduct as a crime has a period of limitation of two years. The court had overlooked this law and during the appeal hearings found the activists not guilty, without a second trial.
I plead not guilty.
The reasons are as follows:
Firstly: A verdict from Linköpings district court made in January of this year states that otherwise punishable deeds may be permitted in an emergency if the actions can prevent immediate danger. A woman had broken two windows of a car in order to save a dog left inside, exposed to full sunlight. If the woman had not interfered, the dog would have been in danger of suffering from heatstroke, or worse, could have succumbed to the heat. I quote from the ruling: "When it comes to saving living creatures, one cannot make a purely materialistic financial calculation, but must instead take into consideration other values."
From the point of view of these hens, they live in an emergency situation. They are prohibited from living a decent life. They are killed. Would not everyone here, if we were exposed to this, see it as an emergency situation?
Secondly: According to the same verdict it is in a case of emergency permissible to cause certain economic damage if the circumstances appear defensible. We have rescued five battery hens from continued suffering and death, and done so with minimal financial damage. The economic value of the hens amount to 35 SEK per hen, which adds up to 175 SEK total. The only damages we caused to the door were a few small cracks in a wooden strip. Otherwise we caused no damage whatsoever. The five hens are still alive and well.
Could not this then be defensible?
Thirdly: It was never our intention to appropriate the hens for our benefit. We did not do this for the sake of personal profit. On the contrary, we did it only with the best interest of the hens in mind. We have also been completely open with what we have done, and in so doing pinned our hopes on the law applying even to the smallest members of our community, those not considered worth more than 35 SEK.
Fourthly: There is a law banning the kinds of cages found at the battery farm in Jonsered. In some cases an exemption has been issued for the continued use of these cages. It must be the lawmakers’ intention to phase out the use of this sort of cage. In addition, we found five hens inside this cage, restricted to a maximum of four hens. To keep five hens inside this cage constitutes a crime which causes considerably more damage than we did as we rescued the hens from Jonsered.
Fifthly: I now return to the Linköping district court ruling in order to pose a question: What might the court have had in mind as it wrote that in the case of living creatures, a purely materialistic financial calculation cannot be made, but other values must be considered? I am thinking about the phrase to consider other values. What could the court have had in mind? Think about it, for this is the core of the question. These other values: could it be something other than each living creature’s value for its own sake? Imagine for a moment what it would be like to be one of these hens, inside one of these cages. Could these other values be anything but the fact that we all want to live a good life regardless if we were born a dog, human or hen?
Considering the reasons I have put forth, I plead for a not guilty verdict.
Helena Eriksson explains how and why the group went through with this action
How was the action done?
-Karna, Åsa and I went to the battery hen farm by car. It was about two in the morning. One car with two helpers followed behind us. They were to bring the hens to their new home following the liberation. They parked while we proceeded to the farm. Karna and Åsa got out with the boxes and tools, two crowbars and a sledgehammer. Åsa wore a headlight since it was pitch-black. Both of them wore freshly washed clothing and shoe covers, in order to prevent any contaminants from reaching the hens. It only took them seconds to break through the door. Furthermore, they did it without making any noise. They entered. The cages opened easily. Åsa placed the hens inside the boxes, and Karna carried them to the car. They then closed the doors. Before leaving, they left a letter for the owner in which our group explained that we had taken five hens and why. We also wrote that we feel he should stop using hens.
What did you do meanwhile?
-I sat in the car and kept watch. There are residents close to the farm. My task was to talk with whoever showed up in order to allow the others to continue with the action. I was to delay the person. Fortunately no one showed up. It all went so fast I didn’t have time to get nervous.
What happened after the hens were brought to the car?
-We all got in the car. I drove us to where we would meet the others. Once there we transferred the boxes, which had air holes in them, to the second car. We placed a cover over the boxes for the hens to complete their journey in darkness: it calms them down. We also gave the hens some food, oats and water, to provide nutrition and hydration during their trip. The hens went on their way, and we returned to the farm. It was now about 3:30 in the morning. On one wall we tacked a banner which read "Five hens freed!" We phoned the person who was to send out the press release about our action and drove home. Before a well-deserved nap, we created a sign which we planned on posting the following day. The sign informed that a feminist animal rights group had liberated five hens, and that it had been done on Valentine’s Day.
What do you call yourselves?
-A feminist animal rights group within The Rescue Service.
What did you do the following day?
-We got up around nine and went to the Partille Police Department. We had researched where to file complaints against this particular battery hen farm and had prepared a police report. At the station they showed us to a room in which we met an inspector. He told us the complaint lacked details necessary for them to begin a preliminary investigation, and so assisted us with advice on how to write another one. In the report we wrote that we had taken five hens and that we were sorry we were not able to take more. He had no objections to this, at least not at that time. Afterwards we went to Gothenburg to make copies of our sign. We returned the car and started posting Avenyn, [a large street in central Gothenburg]. We saved a few signs to use in our home towns of Stockholm, Karlstad and Gothenburg. Around two p.m. we finished posting the street. We were terribly hungry and so went for lunch at a vegetarian restaurant. And that was it. We went to our homes.
Was there anything you could have done better?
-Preparations. I had been sick for weeks before the action and had not been able to perform my assigned duties. It made everything more stressful. It became stressful when we went to pick up the car, since I was the only one with a driver’s license. Otherwise, everything went very well.
Were there any differences between this action and other
rescue actions you have participated in?
-Yes, only women participated in this one. Another new feature was our returning to the hen farm after the actual liberation.
Are you pleased with what you did?
-I am very pleased. We experienced a very positive atmosphere after the liberation. Already that same day we were talking about new actions. The action was not exhaustive. We were set on doing it again. When, I do not know.
Can you speak a little about your preparations for
-A lot of the preparations were done during a conference call prior to the action. At the day of the action, we met up at five in the afternoon. We made a detailed plan for who should do what. Who would carry the boxes and who would stay in the car. We practiced through role-playing how to get in and out of the car, and bring the equipment. We also talked about how to handle a potential confrontation with the owner and police without it leading to violence, and also how to complete the action in a situation like that. Then we ate lots of good food, pasta with bell peppers and soy-cream based sauce, large beans in turmeric, mayo salad with various root vegetables and pineapple. For dessert we had bananas with coconut and ice cream. After dinner we went to bed. That was at ten thirty p.m. I didn’t exactly sleep, but rested. I was not nervous, though. It was mostly nervous for me during the preparations. The alarm was set for one thirty in the morning. We entered the farm at about a quarter past two.
The Rescue Service
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20 hens rescued
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May 2, 2004
120 hens rescued
April 5, 2004
39 hens rescued
April 27, 2003
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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
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Feb. 15, 2000
5 hens rescued
Oct. 28, 1999
24 hens rescued