By Farmers Forum staff
OTTAWA — An animal activist, charged with trespassing after breaking into a Kingston-area mink farm, has broken into at least four other farms and is now being sued by one of them.
Malcolm Klimowicz is being sued by Christel and Robert Schwirtz, who filed suit in Ottawa through lawyer Kurtis Andrews. They farm at Enniskillen, west of Peterborough, raising anywhere from 1,700 to 9,000 mink, according to court documents.
The mother and son, aged 81 and 61 respectively, are suing Klimowicz for $20,000 and have asked for a 100-metre restraining order, as well as extra penalties for “increased security costs resulting from the Respondent’s trespassing and subsequent aggravating conduct,” according to court filings.
Alan Herscovici with the International Fur Federation and founding editor of website Truth about Fur said that the farmers are now frightened in their own home. “In the case of Robert, his 81-year-old mother insists they pull down the blinds every night in case someone is looking in the house.”
Ottawa ag lawyer Kurtis Andrews said that he hears farmers and some farm organizations worry about pursuing charges against animal activists or suing in civil court, because “they believe this is what activists want, to have another platform to express their beliefs, and so it is a better strategy to keep quiet.”
However, Andrews continued: “The stress of facing charges or being liable for civil damages is real and it works to deter anyone. The potential penalties are only part of the deterrence. Even if they initially believe that they are prepared to do anything for their cause, the legal system wears people down because it is not a pleasant process. It eats away at people and grinds them down.”
Klimowicz allegedly sneaked onto the Schwirtz’s property back in 2017, as well as four other Ontario mink farms, to shoot nighttime video he later posted online. He did not release any animals. That footage was online over six months after Klimowicz was allegedly on the farm, beyond the statute of limitations for trespassing charges. Klimowicz calls himself an investigator with the Kitchener Ontario Animal Liberation Alliance.
The organization’s mission statement on its Facebook page include the lines: “We fight to end the use of animals as property. We reject the social norm that animals should be used for human consumption and capital gain. We work to build a community of animal liberationists.”
The footage is still online and viewable on YouTube, as is the footage from three other mink farms; one was taken down by court order. As of Nov. 20, the Enniskillen video had 2,327 views. It identifies Petra Schwirtz and Martin Zinnser as the owners of the farm. The music in the video varies: Often sad and somber. In another, violin music appropriate to a horror movie played over a voiceover from Klimowicz. While the animals did not look distressed, Klimowicz said in the Enniskillen video: “What I witnessed was unthinkable. Mink being fed slop, mixed with their own urine and feces.”
The Schwirtzes also allege that Klimowicz damaged family relations by claiming that the farm belonged to Petra Schwirtz (Robert’s sister and Christel’s daughter) who operates a bed and breakfast down the road. “(Klimowicz) is aware or ought to be aware that this is not true.” She ended up taking down her business Facebook page and the website after being harassed on social media.
When Farmers Forum reached Klimowicz by phone, he said that he was part of 10 grassroot animal activist groups and has been active himself for the past six years. He described himself as a 30-something vegan with a girlfriend and living in Montreal, who campaigns against the meat and fish industry and animal testing for research. His mink farm break-ins seem to have been inspired by a Norwegian documentary called Inside the Fur that was instrumental in persuading the government there to ban fur farming by 2025.
Klimowicz said that not even a cleaner environment for the animals would satisfy him. “Imagine spending your life in a walk-in closet,” he said. He claimed that mink on farms suffer from psychosis and should be allowed to swim because a mink in the wild spends most of its life in the water.
There were 300 Ontario mink farms in 1986, according to Statistics Canada. As of 2018 there were 28.
Mink farm sues videotaping activist
By Farmers Forum staff