Eleven animal advocates who exposed horrific cruelty on a Quebec pig farm have been convicted of break and enter and obstructing police by a Quebec judge.
The animal advocates visited Porgreg pig farm in Saint-Hyacinthe on an early morning in December, 2019. They entered the barn, and live streamed the appalling conditions that sensitive pigs were subjected to inside. As the judge noted, there were “crowded pigs in their cages; dirty floors in some of the pigs’ cages, partially covered with feces; pigs covered in dirt; several threads of cobwebs pending from the ceiling or from some devices; large numbers of flies inside the piggery; dust-covered devices, etc.”.
Eventually, farm workers noticed the advocates seated quietly inside the barn, and called police to have them removed.
Inspectors from the provincial agency tasked with enforcing animal protection laws in Quebec visited the farm only one week after the incident, and found troubling conditions that did not comply with standards, including:
• pigs overcrowded into manure-filled pens;
• piglets wallowing in feces;
• an infestation of insects;
• one sick and dying pig, who should have received veterinary care or be euthanized.
Under Quebec law, animals are recognized as more than mere objects—they are considered sentient beings. It’s an offence in Quebec to abuse or mistreat an animal, keep an animal in unsanitary conditions, or to fail to provide appropriate veterinary care to a suffering or injured animal. Yet shockingly, Porgreg was never charged for the clearly unlawful conditions seen when the animal advocates entered the barn, or during the inspection.
Instead, the eleven animal advocates were prosecuted for break and enter, and obstructing the police. The judge rejected much of the evidence offered by the pig farmer, including allegations that the animal advocates tampered with a gas tank and changed the temperature within the barn, noting, “The Court is strongly convinced that none of the defendants ever intended to do any harm whatsoever to the pigs in the pigsty, or do anything to endanger their health.” But the judge ultimately found that the advocates had entered the barn and committed the offence of mischief while inside, which involves interfering with the use or enjoyment of property. Despite the convictions, the judge noted that some of the images captured by the 11 were “impactful, poignant, troubling, and disturbing”.
All images by Shay the Activist / @shaytheactivist on Instagram
Ag Gag in Canada
Although Canadians are increasingly concerned about the treatment of animals raised and slaughtered for food, factory farms keep consumers in the dark when it comes to how animals raised for meat, eggs, and dairy are treated. With no national regulations governing animal welfare on farms and virtually no government oversight on farms, one of the only ways abuse and mistreatment of farmed animals comes to light is through whistleblower and hidden camera exposés. In addition to prosecuting animal advocates who expose cruelty on farms, many provinces are also passing so-called “ag gag” laws that make it illegal to go undercover on a farm. Meanwhile, farms are seldom held to account for troubling conditions.
While ag gag laws haven’t yet been passed in Quebec, the provincial government created a committee to examine how to prevent trespassing on farms after the animal advocates exposed the widespread suffering at Porgreg pig farm. Quebec, like all Canadian provinces, should focus on passing laws to protect farmed animals, and not ways to ensure farmed animal cruelty stays hidden.
Preventing journalists and animal advocates from exposing animal abuse restricts freedom of expression, one of the most important human rights in Canada. Animal Justice is working to block Canadian ag gag laws from being passed. Our legal team is currently challenging Ontario’s ag gag law in court. Learn how you can help.