Animal activists attending ‘vigil’ at Oakdale ranch arrested after taking a calf

Three woman were arrested at a ranch north of Oakdale Sunday as they attempted to carry an apparently dying calf from the property.

The women were among nearly 60 activists with the animal rights group Direct Action Everywhere who were at Ray-Mar Ranches on Dodds Road on Sunday to “participate in a vigil to honor the lives of the thousands of calves raised there each year,” according to a press release from the group.

The women entered the farm to document living conditions and came across a pile of dead calves, according to the release. One of the calves in the pile wasn’t dead so two of the women picked it up while the other, Priya Sawney, started a Facebook Live video.

A farm supervisor called police when he saw the women trespassing on the property, said Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Sgt. Tom Letras.

The video shows Julianne Perry and Alicia Santurio carrying the limp calf, pulling it under a fence then carrying it to a dirt road where they are met by Stanislaus County Sheriff’s deputies. The women intended to take it to an animal sanctuary, according to the release.

“She was alive and they threw her in a dead pile!” Perry, a financial analyst from Sunnyvale, says in the video. “This is how farmers care about their animals; they are just profit, they are just product, but we care about her.”

Perry, 31, Santurio, 36 of Fairfield, and Sawhney, 29 of Berkeley, were arrested on suspicion of felony grand theft of an animal or animal carcass and misdemeanor trespassing, Letras said.

“The intent was just to document but then they found this calf and were overcome by the moment of it and they did what most normal people would do outside of the constraints of the system,” said Matt Johnson, a press coordinator with Direct Action Everywhere. “Legally and morally we consider this a rescue.”

After the women were arrested, Johnson said, an employee of the ranch loaded the calf onto a cart and took it away.

Letras said, “The problem with their statement that they were saving a dying calf is that there were other avenues they could have taken; they could have called the Sheriff’s Department, they could have called animal control if there is an animal neglect case.”

Direct Action Everywhere contends the women’s actions were justified under California Penal Code 597e, which allows anyone to enter a place where impounded animals are kept to supply an animal with food and water if it has been deprived of both for more than 12 hours. The law applies to domestic animals and pounds but Johnson says there is no exemption for farm animals.

Johnson said the group has not used this defense yet for other volunteers who have been arrested in similar circumstances but he is hopeful a judge or jury will side with the group when it is put to test in a number of pending cases.

He believes prosecutors have taken this into consideration when they have declined to file charges in previous cases.

The woman bailed out of jail Monday. They have not yet been charged by the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department.