Two animal advocates are appealing a conviction and jail sentence they received after entering a British Columbia pig farm that subjected pigs to appalling conditions and shocking cruelty.
Amy Soranno and Nick Schafer were each convicted by a jury of one count of mischief, and one count of break and enter after entering Excelsior Hog Farm in Abbotsford in 2019 as part of a “Meat the Victims” action. They were among dozens of protesters who entered the farm to shine a light on the pigs’ plight and expose the truth to the public.
Excelsior had been outed for having poor conditions, with footage showing mother pigs trapped in gestation crates with dead and dying piglets, pigs prodded in the face with electric current, pigs with untreated injuries, and workers castrating piglets without anaesthesia.
The appeal argues that the trial judge made legal errors, and blocked Ms. Soranno and Mr. Schafer from presenting a full defence. During the trial, the advocates were prohibited from showing the jury any video evidence of animal cruelty at Excelsior.
Ultimately, judge Fritz Verhoeven sentenced the two to 30 days in jail—which is likely the only jail sentence in Canadian history for an act of non-violent civil disobedience.
Meanwhile, the animal cruelty footage from Excelsior was provided to law enforcement officials, but no charges were ever laid against the farm.
Preferential Treatment for the Meat Industry Is Par for the Course in the Canadian Legal System
The vast majority of complaints of cruelty to farmed animals result in no charges whatsoever. But when charges are laid, jail is not typically on the table for the companies responsible. Recent examples include:
- Elite Farm Services and Sofina Foods, BC – A 2017 undercover video showed workers hitting, kicking, and throwing birds; smashing birds into walls; live birds having their wings ripped off; sick and injured birds without medical treatment; and sexual abuse of birds. Companies received only three years of probation, and a $300,000 fine. No jail.
- Millbank Fur Farm, Ontario – Undercover footage from 2018 showed filthy conditions; animals confined in tiny barren cages; animals suffering from untreated wounds and infections, including animals missing body parts. Millbank pleaded guilty to one charge and was sentenced to a $5,600 fine. No jail.
- Hybrid Turkeys, Ontario – Undercover footage from 2014 showed turkeys kicked, beaten with shovels, and thrown; botched euthanasia of a turkey resulting in prolonged suffering as the animal was beaten to death; turkeys with illness and injury apparently left without medical treatment, including at least one bird whose organs were dragged along the floor behind their body. The company pleaded guilty to one charge and was fined $5,600. No jail.
- Chilliwack Cattle Sales, BC – Employees caught on camera in 2015 kicking, punching, and beating cows with canes, chains, metal pipes, and rakes. Several employees were sentenced to jail time. Company and one director pleaded guilty and fined $258,700 and $86,250, respectively. This is the only known Canadian case where jail was handed down for farmed animal abuse—but merely to workers, and not to the directors of the company.