By Dan Whitcomb
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A California farm group called on Wednesday for the arrest of those behind an arson fire that damaged 14 tractor-trailer rigs parked at a feedlot, labeling it an act of "domestic terrorism."
Animal rights activists have claimed responsibility for the blaze, which broke out before dawn on Sunday at the Harris Ranch feedlot in Coalinga.
No arrests have been made in the case.
"The terrorists who attacked a beef production company in California this week must be arrested and prosecuted to the full extent of the law," California Farm Bureau President Paul Wenger said in a statement.
Wenger called on animal welfare groups to step forward to help solve the case.
"We encourage animal-welfare organizations to help authorities find those responsible," he said. "If they sit by silently while animal rightists attack law-abiding businesses, they are passively endorsing domestic terrorism."
A spokesman for the Fresno County Sheriff's Department, which is leading the investigation, could not immediately be reached for comment on Wenger's statement.
The North American Animal Liberation Press Office, which says it conveys messages on behalf of anonymous animal rights activists, has distributed a statement saying the 14 trucks were set on fire to protest "the horrors and injustices of factory farming."
The statement said containers of accelerant and kerosene-soaked rope were placed beneath the trucks and ignited by remote control using digital timers.
A spokeswoman for the Animal Liberation Press Office said the trucks are used to haul cattle to slaughter from the feedlot.
Mike Casey, a Harris Farms vice president, has said he could not corroborate the details specified in the activists' communication or be certain they were responsible.
"All it is is a claim, and we don't have anything to back that up one way or another," Casey told Reuters on Tuesday, "Everything is on the table."
Harris Farms' feedlot is the 14th largest in the United States with a capacity to handle 100,000 head of cattle, according to a company website.
The Harris Ranch Beef Company ranks itself as California's largest fed-cattle processor, producing nearly 200 million pounds of beef a year.
(Additional reporting by Steve Gorman and Emmett Berg, editing by Paul Thomasch)