Mild-Mannered Retiree Facing Criminal Prosecution Highlights How Welfare Laws Fail Animals

02/06/2017 02:45 pm ET Updated Feb 07, 2018

On Thursday, California resident and retiree Diane Gandee Sorbi was charged with larceny, theft, and criminal mischief. Her alleged crime? Removing an injured hen from a cage-free egg farm and bringing her for veterinary care before placing her in a sanctuary to live out her life.

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Hens inside the cage-free egg farm from where Diane removed one injured bird for vet care

The hen -- Ella -- at the centre of the controversy was removed from a cage-free egg farm and Costco supplier where activists reportedly found:

  • Extreme filth, crowding, trampling and fighting.
  • Feces-covered, featherless, ill, and injured hens. Some had bloodied, dragging reproductive organs.
  • Dead and rotting chickens' bodies on the floor among the living hens.

In addition to the obvious animal welfare concerns, cage-free marketing raises consumer protection issues. In this case, eggs from the farm where animals never saw the light of day were sold in packages depicting rolling pasture and wide-open sky.

Many cage-free retailers, including Costco, state they're committed to protecting animals from fear, discomfort, and suffering, and to ensuring animals can exhibit normal behavior. Despite these assurances to consumers, however, a surreptitious look inside cage-free farms shows something else altogether.

See the conditions for yourself, including the moment Diane rescued Ella:

The charges against Diane highlight intrinsic flaws with our animal welfare system. Animals used for food are commodities--the property of their owners. The relatively trivial property rights of owners are privileged over the fundamental rights of animals to be free from suffering and death.

In this case, the corporate entity that subjected animals to severe suffering and then misled consumers about it went unpunished, while the person who rescued an animal from the brink of death and brought her for veterinary care is considered a criminal.

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Ella is handed to Diane

Diane is asking people to call the San Joaquin District Attorney at (209) 468-2400 and ask to leave a message for District Attorney Tori Salazar and Deputy DA Peter Devencenzi. Politely say: "Please prosecute animal cruelty, not whistleblowers. Drop the charges against Diane Gandee Sorbi."