MEDIA RELEASE: Activists Disrupt Ag Summit Over Bird Flu, Animal Cruelty & Corruption

MEDIA RELEASE: Activists Disrupt Ag Summit Over Bird Flu, Animal Cruelty & Corruption

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (June 5, 2024) — Activists from Free from Harm and In Defense of Animals disrupted a California State Board of Food and Agriculture meeting on June 4, featuring Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, Karen Ross, demanding an end to billion-dollar bird flu bailouts for animal agribusiness. The protest occurred as bird flu was reported in San Francisco. 

One 80-year-old activist was jostled by three large security guards who snatched her homemade sign as she called on Secretary Ross to stop giving taxpayer funds to an industry that continues to produce dangerous viruses from its crowded, cramped, and filthy conditions.



Sacramento senior citizen Linda Middlesworth urged Secretary Ross to redirect bird flu payouts to fund plant-based slaughter-free foods. She said, “Taxpayer dollars should not fund cruelty and disease. We must invest in a compassionate, sustainable future. Redirecting subsidies to plant-based, slaughter-free foods can prevent future pandemics and create a healthier society.”

Protesters called on Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, Karen Ross, to stop the billion dollar bird flu bailout for animal agribusiness and invest in plant-based, slaughter-free foods. Photos: California Department of Food & Agriculture, In Defense of Animals.

After Middlesworth was pushed up the stairs of the Sheraton Grand Sacramento Hotel by security, more protesters held up signs. They chanted: STOP ANIMAL AG BAILOUTS, FUND A SLAUGHTER FREE, PLANT-BASED FOOD SYSTEM.

Animal agribusiness continues to kill tens of millions of birds as avian flu spreads easily and rapidly in crowded, industrial farms that are so unsanitary that birds are dosed with massive amounts of antibiotics to survive. The H5N1 bird flu virus has already spread to dairy cows and, as experts have warned and expected, has now infected at least three humans. This outbreak could become another pandemic, this time even worse.

“It is heartbreaking and infuriating that Congress and the Department of Food and Agriculture continue to expand the exploitation and torment of animals, while putting us all at risk for another pandemic, revealing again that profits are more important to them than even public safety,” said Lia Wilbourn of In Defense of Animals. 

The USDA has already surpassed an unprecedented $1,000,000,000 to bail out the chicken and egg industries. Americans’ hard-earned tax dollars are being used to kill millions of birds whether they’re healthy or sick, dump the dead in mass graves, purchase millions of new chicks from hatcheries, and douse factory farms with gallons of toxic chemicals.

Nearly 100 million birds have been exterminated so far by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to protect chicken and egg industry profits from avian flu. Sensitive birds are being killed in terrifying mass slaughters using highly controversial measures. Hens have been sprayed with a suffocating foam so they choke to death in a blinding mass panic in one method. Another method essentially locks birds in a sauna using ventilation shutdown or ventilation shutdown plus, which causes an agonizing death that can take hours through heatstroke, internal organ failure, drowning in fluids, or suffocation. The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) does not recognize these mass killing methods for disease control and they are effectively banned in Europe as “inhumane.”

Politicians are also using this year’s Farm Bill to curry favor with animal agribusiness. The draft contains language similar to the highly controversial EATS Act, which aimed to reverse years of animal welfare progress. If passed in its current state, the Farm Bill would reinstate gestation crates, which confine pregnant pigs in cages so small they can’t turn around.

Animal defenders contest that taxpayer funds should instead be used to develop a cruelty-free, safe, and sustainable plant-based food system.

“We are seizing on the opportunity of Farm Bill negotiations happening now (and likely to end in September), to highlight the urgent need for a just transition to a plant-based food system and an end to animal agriculture bailouts. Our chief goal is to change the narrative, away from a reliance on animal products and toward a plant-based food system. A secondary goal is to expose the injustice and corruption built into current Farm Bill policy which so heavily privileges animal agriculture at the expense of plant-based alternatives,” said Robert Grillo of Free from Harm.

Wilbourn added, “Most people care about fairness and compassion, which is why we aim to raise awareness and shift the paradigm — a slaughter-free, plant-based food system is a better way for animals and all of us, it would solve so many of our planet’s worst problems. Everyone can make a difference by eating plant-based and going vegan.”

Download a vegan starter guide at

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Images and video:

Organizations & Activists: 

Linda Middlesworth overcame cancer, obesity, heart disease and pre-diabetes by eating a whole food, plant-based diet and has been vegan for 36 years. She is a Food for Life and nutrition and cooking instructor through the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine.

Free from Harm is a non-profit dedicated to advancing a plant based food system and challenging the dominance of animal agriculture through bold and innovative grassroots action. Visit us online at

In Defense of Animals is an international animal protection organization based in California with over 250,000 supporters and a 40-year history of fighting for animals, people, and the environment through education and campaigns, as well as hands-on rescue facilities in India, South Korea, rural Mississippi, and California.



Robert Grillo, 773-329-7977,
Lia Wilbourn, 415-879-6879
Linda Middlesworth, 916-798-551


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