Animal welfare activists accused of stealing pigs from factory farm appear in court

BEAVER, Utah -- A group of animal rights activists accused of breaking into a factory farm and stealing a pair of pigs made their first appearance in court.

Jonathan Frohnmayer, Wayne Hsiung, Samer Masterson, Paul Pickelsimer and Andrew Sharo appeared in 5th District Court on Monday where they answered to charges of pattern of unlawful activity, burglary, theft and riot.

The five men are accused of breaking into a Smithfield Foods farm near Milford back in March and stealing a pair of piglets. They are apart of the animal welfare group known as "Direct Action Everywhere."

Video of the action was posted online.

"You’ve got these giant corporations and they’re operating businesses that a lot of people don’t feel good about for one reason or another," Picklesimer told FOX 13. "So we go and we show what’s happening there in the hopes it resonates with people."

The men smiled as Judge Keith Barnes spoke with their attorney, Ron Yengich, arranging an August 6 court date that could result in a plea deal. The Utah Attorney General's Office, which is prosecuting the case, said it did not object to the men being booked and released from jail pending future court dates.

Beaver County Sheriff's deputies designate a "free speech zone" outside the courthouse as animal rights activists appear in court. (Photo by Ben Winslow, FOX 13 News)

Outside of court, prosecutors declined to comment.

Beaver County Sheriff's deputies appeared to be anticipating confrontations. They designated an area in front of the courthouse as a "free speech zone" for any possible protests. However, no one showed up to demonstrate.

The men declined to say if there were other actions they took part in while in Utah. They are also due in Manti's 6th District Court on Wednesday to face charges related to the theft of a turkey chick from a farm in Sanpete County.

Sharo said they were hoping to document factory farm conditions to show people deplorable conditions that are used to make their meat.

"People should have a right to know what’s going into the food, how that food is produced," he said.