In a disappointing decision, the British Columbia Court of Appeal has upheld the convictions of Amy Soranno and Nick Schafer. The two were convicted in 2022 by a jury of criminal break and enter and mischief for their role in a peaceful sit-in at Excelsior Hog Farm—a factory pig farm in Abbotsford, BC that has been repeatedly exposed for extreme animal cruelty.
They now plan to appeal their sentence of 30 days in jail—the only known jail sentence in Canadian history for peaceful, non-violent civil disobedience.
Camille Labchuk, executive director of Animal Justice, poignantly summarizes the situation: “The Excelsior case exposes serious problems with the lack of oversight and accountability on farms in Canada. It is deeply troubling that our legal system gives abusive farms a get-out-of-jail-free card, yet attempts to jail the compassionate citizens who shine light on animal suffering.”
The “Excelsior 4”
Soranno and Shafer were part of a peaceful 2019 “Meat the Victims” sit-in at Excelsior. The pair appealed the conviction, arguing that the judge prevented them from presenting a full defence. Specifically, the jury was not allowed to view video footage of suffering pigs at the farm, and they were barred by the trial judge from arguing that the farm had engaged in unlawful animal abuse.
The relentless prosecution and harsh sentence imposed on Soranno, Schafer, and other members of the Excelsior 4 stands in stark contrast with the leniency often extended to farms accused of animal cruelty. Farms are rarely prosecuted, and when they are, farmers almost never face jail time—even for acts like ripping the wings off of live birds, sexually abusing animals, or beating animals to death with a shovel.
Abused, Injured, & Rotting Pigs
Since 2019, multiple secretly-recorded videos have shown brutal animal suffering at Excelsior. One 2019 video showed mother pigs trapped in gestation crates with dead and dying piglets; pigs prodded in the face with electric current; untreated injuries; and workers seemingly castrating piglets without painkillers. Despite providing footage to law enforcement, authorities laid no charges against the farm. Instead, one whistleblower who came forward was turned over to police.
New footage from Excelsior released by Animal Justice in November 2023 showed dead and rotting pigs, pigs kicked in the face and jabbed with rods, pigs with bloody wounds, and feces and blood smeared throughout the farm.
Despite the appalling conditions, the farm itself has yet to face a single charge. This glaring disparity in the treatment of citizen whistleblowers and the farm in question paints a disturbing picture of the current state of the Canadian legal system.
A System of Suffering
Excelsior is not an isolated case. With no national regulations or government oversight on farms, one of the only ways cruelty and abuse of farmed animals is exposed is through whistleblowers and hidden camera exposés. Otherwise, the public is largely left in the dark, with no way to learn more about how animals are treated behind the closed doors of factory farms.
Every step of the way, Canada’s legal system fails farmed animals. Subscribe to Animal Justice’s mailing list to stay informed on how you can help.
Banner image credit: Suzanne Goodwin / We Animals Media