TORONTO—A truck driver named Andrew Blake pleaded guilty today to careless driving causing the death of animal advocate Regan Russell at Fearmans Pork slaughterhouse in Burlington, Ontario.
Blake escaped criminal prosecution. He instead pleaded to a single charge under the provincial Highway Traffic Act and was ordered to pay $2,000—the lowest possible fine. The maximum sentence possible was a $50,000 fine plus two years in jail.
Russell was run over and killed on June 19, 2020 while protesting the passage of so-called “ag gag” laws in Ontario, which make it illegal to expose suffering inside transport trucks carrying animals to slaughter, or go undercover to investigate animal cruelty at factory farms and slaughterhouses.
Provincial charges are considered far less serious than criminal charges, and are more akin to a traffic ticket—with significantly lower penalties for those convicted, and no criminal record. A comparable criminal offence, such as dangerous driving causing death, would be punishable by large fines and up to 14 years in prison, plus a criminal record.
Camille Labchuk, a lawyer and executive director of Animal Justice stated:
“The leniency shown by police and prosecutors in this case is troubling but not surprising. Industries that farm, transport, and slaughter animals are seldom held to account for causing unlawful animal suffering—despite clear evidence regularly provided to authorities.
“While industries regularly escape accountability, police and prosecutors tend to aggressively prosecute animal activists—such Anita Krajnc, a woman charged with criminal mischief simply for giving water to thirsty pigs on a slaughter truck outside Fearmans. Krajnc was acquitted in 2017 after a heavy-handed and much-publicized trial.
“Animal Justice will continue to challenge the constitutionality of Ontario’s dangerous ag gag laws in court, and is grateful that the Regan Russell Foundation is intervening in the case to ensure her legacy of compassion lives on.”