Why I Protested Costco Topless

Eva Hamer lives in Chicago and is an organizer with the grassroots animal-rights network Direct Action Everywhere. DxE uses open rescue, disruptive protests, and community building to denormalize violence against animals.

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by Eva Hamer

Early in the morning, I and a dozen other women met in a second-story walkup San Fransisco apartment, took a deep breath and removed our shirts. Using latex makeup, fake blood, and red lipstick, we painted our nipples to resemble the disfigurement we’ve seen in factory pig farms. We walked a short distance to a Costco warehouse just as large steel gates closed across the entrance, poetically separating customers from several dozen grassroots activists displaying our bodies and signs reading “Costco’s Bloody Secret.”

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Despite the cold wind and abundant leering men, we remained. For years now, my friends and I have spread the word about our findings in farms that supply Costco. My own visit to one of these farms is haunting- dead baby pigs littered the floor, yet to be picked up by workers, bound to be tallied off as an acceptable loss to industry. Mother pigs confined to gestation crates were been bred to have more babies than they can feed, causing raw and bloodied nipples over several pregnancies, letting their babies starve or fight their siblings to drink their mother’s blood. Animals who survive until slaughter are sold by a multimillion-dollar company with soaring stock prices. On occasion I’ve caught their eyes through slats in trucks that bring them to slaughter. I’ve seen the eyes of individuals capable of rich emotional lives, stuck in a hellish story from which very few escape.

The response to our investigations has been shocking. Even after the FBI raided sanctuaries they suspected of harboring fugitive piglets and felony charges were filed against investigators carrying up to 60 years in prison, a pair of San Fransisco attorney named Wells Blaxter and Brian Blackman have made a habit of filing lawsuits against a small association of grassroots activists that dares to demonstrate against corporate giants such as Whole Foods and Costco. A federal suit on behalf of Costco is the third lawsuit they’ve filed, even as the first two are yet to resolve. They’re asking us to stop protesting. We’d like for them to stop torturing animals and lying about it. 

To be honest, we don’t have the resources to fight these lawsuits, and we don’t have the space to rescue ever piglet that dies on the floor of a Costco animal warehouse, but we do have the truth, that in the face of criminal animal abuse and environmental devastation, whistleblowers are being prosecuted and sued. And we’ll continue to tell the truth for as long as it takes, with our words, our bodies, and our lives.

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