Direct Action Everywhere
DxE protest at Whole Foods Market
Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) is an international grassroots network of animal rights activists founded in 2013 in the San Francisco Bay Area. DxE activists use open rescue of animals from farms and other facilities, disruptive protests, and community building. Their intent is to build a movement that can eventually shift culture and change social and political institutions. DxE activists work for "total animal liberation" and the creation of a law requiring "species equality."
DxE was founded in 2013 by a handful of people in the Bay Area who decided to protest inside restaurants and stores, rather than outside, which was more typical of animal rights protests. DxE co-founder Wayne Hsiung had been investigating slaughterhouses for ten years prior to founding DxE with the goal of scaling up open rescue and other forms of nonviolent direct action.
DxE's first action occurred in January 2013. Six activists demonstrated in front of a meat counter at a Sprouts Farmers Market, contending that the items being sold there behind the counter were not food but "the torment and suffering of billions of our friends in factory farms and slaughterhouses."
DxE continued organizing protests inside restaurants and stores, citing the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and ACT UP as influences. In August 2013, DxE organized its first multi-city protest, The Earthlings March. Approximately 40 cities participated in the march, which was covered in international media.
In October 2013, in response to a viral video produced by Chipotle called The Scarecrow, DxE organized in-store “die-ins” at three San Francisco Chipotle restaurants. DxE argued that the ad, which advertised Chipotle’s purported efforts to create a more natural and humane food system was “humanewashing,” which animal rights activists describe as marketing efforts intended to disguise the inherent violence of using and killing animals for food. Within a few weeks, copycat demonstrations were executed in Chicago, Los Angeles, Phoenix and Philadelphia. DxE responded by creating a platform for coordinated global days of action under the “It’s Not Food, It’s Violence” message.
DxE has continued with internationally coordinated monthly days of action. In addition to Chipotle, activists have also targeted other grocery stores, restaurants, clothing stores, zoos, circuses, and labs. The original actions were organized around the San Francisco Bay Area. By December 2014, DxE's network had grown to at least 90 cities in 20 countries.
Whole Foods Campaign
Beginning in the summer of 2013, DxE activists Wayne Hsiung, Chris Van Breen, Priya Sawhney, Brian Burns, and Ronnie Rose began an investigation with an aim to start DxE’s Open Rescue Network. They selected U.S.-based natural foods grocery store Whole Foods Market as the target of the investigation because of the company “actively shap[es] the public’s view of animal agriculture with false marketing.”
The activists selected Certified Humane Whole Foods egg supplier Petaluma Poultry in Petaluma, California as the target of the initial investigation. At one point, activists encountered a diseased hen who had collapsed and was struggling to breathe and removed her from the farm. They named her Mei Hua (Chinese for “beautiful flower”) and made her recovery a centerpiece of the ensuing campaign and imagery.
DxE released a 19-minute video of the investigation, “Truth Matters,” on YouTube and Facebook in January 2015 and received coverage in several international media outlets, including the New York Times and Mother Jones. For several weekends following the investigation, and every month thereafter through early 2016, DxE chapters in several dozen cities organized protests inside Whole Foods stores, challenging the company’s “Values Matter” advertising campaign. Whole Foods announced new egg-laying standards shortly after the release of the investigation video.
Over the course of 2015, a larger team of activists investigated Diestel Turkey Ranch, one of only three companies, out of over 2,000, to achieve a 5+ rating on the 1-5 scale used by the Global Animal Partnership, Whole Foods’s animal welfare rating scheme. Activists recorded video apparently at a Diestel-owned farm in Jamestown, CA, showing filth, overcrowding, and birds dying as infants. Diestel added a brief mention to its website of its Jamestown farm following the investigation.
DxE released another investigation in November 2016 into Jaindl Farms, a Whole Foods farm that has supplied the White House with Thanksgiving turkeys since the 1960s rated in the 98th percentile of animal welfare according to an animal welfare audit. The activists released footage of birds with mutilated beaks, struggling to walk, and crowded to the point of repeated trampling. Two Huffington Post reporters visited the farm on invitation of Jaindl's owner and found that while severe injuries were uncommon, turkeys had visible sores.
DxE's organizing principles call for "total animal liberation" understood as "species equality". Typically these phrases are hyperlinked to texts by Peter Singer in which Singer argues that like interests should be given equal consideration, that most animals, including all farmed animals, have an interest in not suffering, and that failure to treat them with equal consideration amounts to a kind of discrimination best labeled speciesism.
DxE's focus on nonviolent direct action is based on the belief that social change depends on changing the beliefs of the public by spreading memes that are spread accurately, widely, and for a long time. They focus on telling the animals' stories from the animals' own perspectives.
The inaugural DxE video contended that "our conviction is that the status quo will remain unchanged unless there is a considerable amount of pressure exerted from the outside. We also feel that mere education is not enough, and that animal liberation will only come about by creating a cultural climate of saying . . . that it's not right to use others for our benefit, whether that be other humans or other nonhuman animals."
- "Direct Action Everywhere handbook". Retrieved 2016-08-15.
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- "Truth Matters: DxE Investigators Expose "Humane" Fraud at Whole Foods". YouTube. January 7, 2015. Retrieved September 20, 2016.
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- "Animal rights activists demonstrate at Whole Foods in Milford over egg supplier". New Haven Register. January 12, 2015. Retrieved September 20, 2016.
- "Whole Foods Thanksgiving turkeys endure 'horrific conditions' at Calif. farm, activists say". Washington Post. November 24, 2015. Retrieved September 20, 2016.
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- "Diestel Turkey". Retrieved September 20, 2016.
- "Turkeys supplied to White House are raised in inhumane conditions, activist group says". Washington Post. November 18, 2016. Retrieved November 30, 2016.
- "Jaindl". Retrieved November 30, 2016.
- "The Turkey Farm That Supplies The White House Says It's Humane. See For Yourself.". Huffington Post. November 22, 2016. Retrieved November 30, 2016.
- "Direct Action Everywhere: FAQ". Retrieved January 25, 2015.
- "Direct Action Everywhere: Organizing Principles". Retrieved January 25, 2015.
- "Effective Meme Spreading". YouTube. November 5, 2013. Retrieved January 25, 2015.