Trial of animal activist starting this week in Clarion

The Wright County Courthouse
The Wright County Courthouse. Photo by Bridget Shilheny.
Bridget Shileny
Wright County Monitor Editor

UPDATE: State has filed motion to dismiss all charges against animal activist.

This story has developed since the paper went to press.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Wright County Attorney’s Office filed a motion to dismiss all charges against Matthew Johnson. Johnson was set to stand trial in Wright County starting Thursday for third-degree burglary and electronic or mechanical eavesdropping relating back to a May of 2020 break in at a Iowa Select Farms hog facility in rural Dows.

Johnson subsequently filed a motion of resistance to the dismissal on Tuesday. According to that motion “the State must provide the reasons for dismissal before any such motion can be granted. Because the Motion fails to provide a legally-sufficient reason for the dismissal – and because Johnson has not had the opportunity to clear his name (or vindicate his constitutional right to freedom of speech) – the Motion is legally insufficient.”

A press release from the group Direct Action Everywhere, which Johnson is a part of, noted Johnson filed the motion of resistance in order to present at trial evidence of the ventilation shutdown killings at Iowa Select Farms.

A telephone hearing on the State’s motion to dismiss is planned for Wednesday afternoon.

Check back for future developments to this story.

Over a year and a half after the incident, the trial of an animal activist is set to begin this week at the Wright County Courthouse in Clarion. Matthew Johnson will stand trial starting Thursday for actions dating back to May of 2020 when he and another person broke into an Iowa Select Farms hog facility in rural Dows.

According to initial criminal complaint relating to the case, “On May 25th, 2020…persons known as Matthew Allan Johnson and Linda L. Cridge entered the Iowa Select Farms Hog Site in rural Dows. These individuals entered without permission and placed 2 live video streaming cameras and one audio recording device in the hog facility. Additionally…Matthew is seen by video surveillance walking towards the exit with a live 12 lb piglet in his arms followed by Linda Cridge.”

Johnson, 35, is an Iowa native. His address on the original criminal complaint was listed as Dubuque though his Facebook page lists Berkeley, California as his residence. Johnson is an animal activist with the group Direct Action Everywhere, a group that describes themselves as “a global grassroots network of animal rights activists” whose goal is to “achieve revolutionary social and political change for animals in one generation.”

Johnson was arrested on separate charges last year for trespassing at Iowa Select Farms facilities near Dows. He had also been scheduled to stand trial in Grundy County, Iowa a year ago for breaking into another Iowa Select facility in May of 2020, but the charges were dropped before the trial began.

In various interviews and publications, Johnson has said he was attempting to expose Iowa Select Farms use of “ventilation shutdown” to kill hogs. The company and many others were forced to euthanize thousands of animals after the COVID-19 pandemic slowed production at plants and left nowhere for the animals to go.

On Thursday, Johnson will stand trial for charges of third-degree burglary, a class D felony and electronic or mechanical eavesdropping, a serious misdemeanor. If convicted on the burglary charge, Johnson could face up to five years in prison. Three counts of Agricultural Production Facility Trespassing were dismissed in June of 2020.

Linda Cridge, who was with Johnson in May of 2020, was sentenced to one year probation and fined $855 for Unlawful Entry of an Animal Facility on January 6. Other charges of Electronic or Mechanical Eavesdropping and two counts of Agricultural Production Facility Trespassing were dropped.

Iowa Select Farm was invited to comment for this story but said they were unable to do so at this time.



The Eagle Grove Eagle

The Eagle Grove Eagle
P.O. Box 6
304 West Broadway
Eagle Grove, IA 50533
Phone: 1-515-448-4745
FAX: 1-515-448-3182

Mid-America Publishing

This newspaper is part of the Mid-America Publishing Family. Please visit for more information.