Vegan protestors target town, CEO

Published 5:22 pm Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Animal rights activists recently targeted the home of Smithfield Foods Chief Executive Officer Ken Sullivan and the Taste of Smithfield Restaurant and Gift Shop in the town’s historic district, drawing a law enforcement response for both incidents.

On Aug. 8, members of Direct Action Now, which describes itself as a “global grassroots network of animal rights activists,” broadcast a video online of group members spraying gallons of what they claimed was pig waste onto the front lawn of a Richmond residence they identified as Sullivan’s. After spraying the substance, they unfurled a banner with a profane slogan ridiculing Smithfield Foods.

When Richmond police responded to the scene and asked the protestors to leave, they did, according to the video. The three-hour-long video had nearly 700,000 views on the NowThis Politics page by Aug. 17.

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Three days later, around 7:30 p.m. Aug. 11, protestors entered Taste of Smithfield during dinner. A woman who recorded a video of the incident and posted it to the “Smithfield and IOW 411” Facebook page described what happened next.

“They unrolled a banner (I did not get to see what was written on it). They said Smithfield Foods was awarded the S——t Company in the World. Then they said ‘Let’s party’ and turned on a boombox with ‘Celebrate’ playing. They were saying that Smithfield Foods kills pigs.”

“The individuals were asked to leave by the manager and they did,” Smithfield Police Lt. Christopher Meier said. When officers arrived, the group was outside still playing music.

Taste of Smithfield is “the flagship restaurant and store of Smithfield Foods,” according to the eatery’s website. Reached by phone, a manager at the restaurant declined to discuss the incident and directed a reporter to a corporate spokesperson. In response to a request for comment, Smithfield Foods issued a statement condemning the group.

“The town of Smithfield, including our Taste of Smithfield restaurant, was recently targeted by an extremist animal rights group,” the company said. “This group has little regard for the law. They are known for aggressive, misleading tactics aimed at forcing a vegan agenda on Americans. Their ongoing fanatical campaign disregards the facts, relies on a false narrative and promotes a slanted agenda aimed at eradicating animal agriculture.”

The company went on to describe the group’s behavior as “despicable” and said “their deviously inaccurate portrayal of the animal care and environmental practices on our company-owned farms, as well as on the large network of family farms that comprise the majority of our supply chain, are not only misinformed, but completely absurd.”

An emailed request for comment sent to Direct Action Now was not immediately returned.