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Attorney and animal rights activist Wayne Hsiung is representing Tracy Murphy, the owner-operator of Asha’s Farm Sanctuary, as the Niagara County District Attorney’s Office presses a larceny case against her after she took custody of two cows that wandered onto her property in Newfane last summer.

So just who is Wayne Hsiung, the new attorney representing Asha Farm Sanctuary owner Tracy Murphy?

Hsiung is best known as the co-founder of the global animal rights network Direct Action Everywhere, or DxE, based in Berkeley, Calif. The mission posted on the group’s website indicates that DxE aims to “achieve revolutionary and political change for animals in one generation.” The group has been responsible for directing animal rights campaigns in communities worldwide and boasts of rescuing hundreds of animals from slaughterhouses, laboratories and “other places of violence.”

On the legal end, the group’s representatives, including Hsiung, have been attached to some high-profile court cases involving individuals who were defended for their “right to rescue” animals who were being mistreated or held in confinement conditions that animal rights activists contend were inhumane.

In October, Hsiung and another co-defendant were acquitted following a trial over their 2017 removal of two piglets from a Smithfield Foods factory farm in Utah.

Hsiung and fellow DxE member Paul Picklesimer were facing burglary and theft charges in the case, after they removed the pigs — named Lily and Lizzie — from the Smithfield farm and brought them to an animal sanctuary in Colorado. The FBI later raided the sanctuary where they confirmed that they pigs were, indeed, owned by Smithfield. Published reports from last year indicate that the pigs have not been removed from the sanctuary.

The Smithfield case is considered by animal activists to be a landmark decision as it relates to the theory of “open rescue,” which suggests it is appropriate, not unlawful, for humans to remove animals from farms, labs and other places where they are being made to suffer.

According to the Intercept, Hsiung, who represented himself in court during the case, argued in his opening statement to the jury that animal rescue “is not the worst part of us as human beings. It’s the best of us.”

Hsiung’s animal rights activism has led him to be charged in other cases and he was previously convicted of two felonies, including in 2021 when he received a suspended sentence of six months to 17 months in jail for stealing a baby goat from a North Carolina farm.

In addition to animal rights advocacy, Hsiung has dabbled in politics. In 2020, he made an unsuccessful bid to become mayor of the City of Berkeley. His background includes a stint as a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellow at MIT and as a faculty member at Northwestern School of Law.

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