By Connor Lynch
BURLINGTON — Animal activist Anita Kranjc, who gave water to pigs on their way to a slaughterhouse in Burlington, Ont., in 2015, was found not guilty of mischief on May 4. Farm groups were disappointed but say it was not a ruling against animal agriculture.
Animal activists took to Twitter to crow about the “victory of compassion,” as a media scrum erupted outside the courtroom after the trial. Had Kranjc been found guilty, she would have faced a possible fine of $5,000 and up to six months in jail.
Justice David Harris said that he was not satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that Kranjc had interfered with the lawful use of property, because no animals were rejected by the slaughterhouse and he was satisfied that the substance they had been given was water.
Farm & Food Care Ontario, Ontario Pork, the Ontario Federation of Agriculture and the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario released a joint statement shortly after the verdict was announced. “The Ontario farm organizations are extremely disappointed with the decision and are concerned that activists will be encouraged to engage in escalating activities that are a growing threat to animal welfare, food security and human safety,” the statement read.
Farm & Food Care Ontario program manager Bruce Kelly told Farmers Forum that despite their disappointment, the judge’s verdict was undoubtedly thoughtful and “pro-agriculture,” reaffirming the right of farmers to raise animals and ship them for slaughter.
Although the organizations are concerned about emboldened activists escalating their protest efforts, Kelly said that’s because of all the media attention and conversation around the trial, rather than the actual content of the judgement. “If people were to read it true, (Justice Harris) did not give people permission to jump in front of livestock trucks. The truck had stopped at a red light.”
The ruling “will obviously encourage the movement (against animal agriculture) but I don’t think it’s precedent setting.”
Ottawa ag lawyer Kurtis Andrews agreed. “Criminal mischief has been described clearly,” he said. “The crown couldn’t prove the elements needed for conviction. It’s as simple as that.”
Andrews added that, although Kranjc’s defence team sought to spin the case into a trial about cruelty and lack of animal rights, Canada isn’t likely to change the status of animals under the law any time soon. “It’s a centuries-old precedent,” said Andrews. “It’s a stretch to think it’s possible, really. They can legislate how animals are treated, but people can own animals.”
The dismissal of the charges also laid out a road map for how to seek a future conviction, he said. The animals, “didn’t show any signs of being harmed and none of the animals were condemned (taken out of the food system).”
Andrews noted that fearing that the animals had been given an unknown substance, had the truck driver not allowed the pigs to go to a slaughterhouse for human consumption, “you would’ve had a conviction.”
Justice Harris echoed that in his judgement. Part of Kranjc’s defence relied on the argument that she was acting in the public good, which Harris sharply refuted.
“Had I been satisfied that she had obstructed, interrupted or interfered with the lawful use, enjoyment or operation of property, I would have held that she was not legally justified in doing so,” Harris said.