Animal rights activists claim responsibility for California cattle ranch arson

By Katie Wiggin
CBS News
January 11, 2012

Animal rights activists have claimed responsibility for a fire that engulfed 14 tractors and damaged several trailer rigs parked at California’s biggest beef processor. No people or animals were reported hurt during the blaze, which began before dawn on Sunday at the Harris Ranch feedlot, in Coalinga, California.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports 14 trucks were fully engulfed in flames and firefighters were able to extinguish the blaze within 45 minutes. In an email released to the public on Monday, the North American Animal Liberation press office announced that an anonymous animal rights group was responsible for the fires.

The Fresno Bee also reports that spokeswoman Nicoal R. Sheen said her office does not take part in illegal actions, but does distribute communications from those who do.

The statement included a detailed description of the containers of accelerant and kerosene-soaked rope activists claim they placed beneath trucks and ignited by remote control using digital timers to set the fire. The email said the 14 trucks were set ablaze deliberately to protest the “horrors and injustices of factory farming.”

“We weren’t sure how well this was going to work, so we waited until there was[sic] news reports before writing this,” the statement said. “We were extremely pleased to see that all 14 trucks ‘were a total loss’ with some being ‘completely melted to the ground.'”

“We’re not delusional enough to believe that this action will shut down the Harris feeding company, let alone have any effect on factory farming as a whole,” the e-mail stated. “But we maintain that this type of action still has worth.”

The e-mail ended with, “Until next time.”

A spokeswoman for the North American Animal Liberation Press Office said the trucks are used to haul cattle to slaughter from the feedlot.

Fresno County Sheriff’s spokesman Chris Curtice said Tuesday that investigators are looking into the activists’ claim, as well as several other leads. Investigators say the fire started around 4 a.m. Sunday. Harris Farms spokesman Mike Casey says the company has not received recent threats from animal rights activists.

“All it is is a claim, and we don’t have anything to back that up one way or another,” Casey told Reuters, “Everything is on the table.” Casey said the fire did nothing to harm business although he does not have a damage estimate.

Harris Farms’ feedlot is the 14th largest in the United States with capacity to handle 100,000 head of cattle, a company website says. They produce nearly 200 million pounds of beef a year.