Animal-rights activists march through Berkeley on Thursday morning, carrying a dead piglet to her grave. Photo: Direct Action Everywhere

Activists buried a dead piglet in a Berkeley park on Thursday morning to call attention to the mistreatment of animals.

The 200 or so demonstrators led a “funeral procession” down University Avenue around 9 a.m., marching in black clothing to deliver eulogies, dig a grave for the piglet and scatter other animals’ ashes at Civic Center Park.

“We are pushing for a world in which we don’t treat animals as objects, but respect them as the living, feeling individuals we know them to be,” said Matt Johnson, spokesman for Direct Action Everywhere.

When animals like Chloe the piglet die, they’re typically “discarded, consumed or thrown in the trash,” Johnson said. This time, she was nestled in a tiny white coffin lined with roses.

In a press release, the animal-rights group said the piglet was buried at City Hall, but a video of the demonstration shows activists at Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park, across the street from the Old City Hall building.

Berkeley spokesman Matthai Chakko said there’s no city law against burying an animal in a park.

“They may have violated some park rules, but there’s no real damage — there’s some sod cut up,” he said Thursday evening. But he criticized the group for holding the burial.

“They shouldn’t have done it,” Chakko said. “This is a park that a lot of people enjoy and use, and it’s for everyone, not for any one particular group.”

Direct Action Everywhere, or DxE, operates primarily out of the Berkeley Animal Rights Center on Channing Way but is active in in cities throughout the country. The group is known for provocative protests, often featuring fake blood and half-clothed humans. The activists stage “rescues” from farms and slaughterhouses where they say animals live in squalor until they’re murdered.

Chloe was already dead when DxE “found” her at a Smithfield Foods farm in California, Johnson said. [Update: After publication, Johnson said he learned the piglet was not actually from Smithfield. He said he does not know how the group obtained the body.]

Animal-rights activists block traffic during a “funeral procession” down University Avenue on Thursday morning. Photo: Natalie Orenstein
Animal-rights activists block traffic during a “funeral procession” down University Avenue on Thursday morning. Photo: Natalie Orenstein

DxE has held many demonstrations in Berkeley, including at Chez Panisse, Whole Foods on Telegraph Avenue and, at one point weekly, in front of the Local Butcher Shop on Cedar Street. The activists scaled back those protests when the shop owners agreed, under duress, to hang a sign in the window that said, “Attention: Animals’ lives are their right. Killing them is violent and unjust, no matter how it’s done.”

The dramatic actions are intended to “start a conversation” about the inhumane conditions animals languish in, Johnson said.

They also got some DxE members into trouble recently.

In early May, six of the activists were charged with felony theft in Utah for taking a turkey from a Norbest farm. Just this week, five of them got additional charges related to a high-profile, factory-farm piglet rescue the FBI got involved in. According to DxE, they’re facing up to 60 years in prison.

“We did what any compassionate person would do” by exposing the dire conditions and rescuing a dying animal from the Smithfield site, Johnson said. The activists took photos of pigs living in small crates on top of other animals’ dead bodies, and saw “baby pigs bathing in their mothers’ feces,” he said.

The new charges came just before the week-long Animal Liberation Conference in Berkeley.

Thursday’s funeral was the first of multiple demonstrations to come during the conference, Johnson said, including a large march planned for San Francisco on Saturday.

This story was updated with a response from the city of Berkeley.

Natalie Orenstein reports on housing and homelessness for The Oaklandside. Natalie was a Berkeleyside staff reporter from early 2017 to May 2020. She had previously contributed to the site since 2012,...