TORONTO—Animal law group Animal Justice is expressing shock at a 30-day jail sentence handed down today by a BC judge to two animal advocates. Amy Soranno and Nick Schafer were each convicted of one count of mischief, and one count of break and enter after entering a pig farm in Abbotsford in 2019 that had previously been exposed for inflicting sickening cruelty onto pigs.
The footage from Excelsior Farm showed mother pigs trapped in gestation crates with dead and dying piglets; pigs prodded in the face with electric current; untreated injuries; and workers castrating piglets without anaesthesia. Although the footage was provided to law enforcement officials, no charges were laid against the farm. Instead, four animal advocates were charged with dozens of offences.
Lawyer Camille Labchuk, executive director of Animal Justice, stated:
“Amy Soranno and Nick Schafer have been treated far more severely than nearly every Canadian farm that has been convicted of animal cruelty. Farms typically walk away with a fine or probation when they are caught abusing animals, even in the most horrific of cases. If Ms. Soranno and Mr. Schafer had been responsible for wings being ripped off of chickens, turkeys being beaten to death with shovels, or animals being left to suffer with untreated injuries, they likely would have received a far lighter sentence.
“This is the first known Canadian case in which peaceful animal advocates have been jailed for an act of non-violent civil disobedience. The Excelsior case has exposed serious problems with the lack of oversight on Canadian farms, the unwillingness of authorities to hold the farm industry accountable for serious animal cruelty, and the vastly different treatment of farms that inflict animal suffering, compared to advocates who attempt to shine light on the suffering.”
The vast majority of complaints of cruelty to farmed animals do not result in charges. However, the following are examples of recent Canadian cases of farmed animal abuse with lower sentences than those received by Ms. Soranno and Mr Schafer:
- Elite Farm Services and Sofina Foods, BC – Workers shown in 2017 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. Milbank 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 birds 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 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 uncovered via hidden camera.
Executive Director, Animal Justice