MERCED COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- A trial is underway for two activists accused of stealing chickens from a truck outside a Foster Farms facility in Livingston.
Jury selection began in the Merced County Courthouse on Tuesday for former Baywatch actress Alexandra Paul and Alicia Santurio.
Their supporters gathered outside the courthouse to urge the district attorney's office to focus on Foster Farms rather than the activists, who they believe had the right to rescue the animals.
In September 2021, members of the animal activism group Direct Action Everywhere chained themselves to the top of a U-haul outside the plant.
During the protest, Paul and Santurio were seen on video taking chickens from a truck heading into the facility.
They were arrested and charged with theft.
Paul says she's proud to go to court and accuses Foster Farms of animal abuse.
"We have a lot of people who believe there should be a a right to rescue injured chickens," explained Paul. "We believe that Foster Farms should not get away with hiding how they treat animals."
If convicted, Paul and Santurio are facing up to six months in jail.
Foster Farms released a statement on Tuesday in response to the activists' claims and actions.
"Foster Farms places the highest priority on the welfare of the flocks entrusted in our care. In 2013, the company became the first major poultry producer to be independently audited and certified by the American Humane Association, and continues to receive outstanding animal welfare audit scores.
All Foster Farms Team members that come in contact with our flocks receive comprehensive annual animal welfare training. Video observation and review at our local facilities ensures that appropriate practices are followed.
Through its past actions, Direct Action Everywhere has proven itself to be an extremist organization with a self-proclaimed goal of discouraging consumers from eating any meat, poultry, fish, or dairy.
We do not believe this reflects the sentiment of Californians. Direct Action Everywhere's allegations against Foster Farms lack merit and are a disservice to the dedication of our Foster Farms Team members."