By Connor Lynch
BURLINGTON — The truck driver involved in a fatal collision with an animal rights protestor outside a slaughterhouse in Burlington has been charged, sparking a conflict between the farming community and animal activist organizations.
The 28-year old driver, who was not named by police, was formally charged by Halton Regional Police on July 20 with careless driving causing death under the Highway Traffic Act, which carries a maximum penalty of a $2,000 fine and/or six months in jail.
Toronto Pig Save activists were protesting just outside the hog plant on June 19 when a 65-year-old protestor was struck by a transport truck and killed.
The protest was specifically opposing Ontario’s recently-passed Bill 156 which, among other things, makes it a criminal offence to impede livestock trucks. The bill was not yet in force at the time of the protest and is not expected to be in force until November, following a 45-day comment period, said a spokesperson for ag minister Ernie Hardeman’s office. In a statement, co-founder of the Animal Save Movement Anita Krajnc, who was charged and acquitted after stopping a transport truck in 2015 at the same location to give water to pigs, said the charges were “feeble and do not amount to justice.”
Meanwhile, a gofundme online fundraiser with a goal to raise $50,000 for the truck driver, raised more than $102,000 in nine days.
The online fundrasier states: “All money raised will go towards covering his legal fees in fighting this unacceptable charge, as well as tending to his mental health needs.
“This charge is not acceptable to the driver, other drivers in the industry or the agricultural community as a whole. The driver was just doing his job to help feed people around the world, delivering pigs to slaughter.”
Brussels Transport employs the charged driver and in an interview with Farmers Forum company vice-president Tyler Jutzi said it has been the subject of harassment and threats. “Lots of threats to blow up trucks, open them up and let pigs free, burn the slaughterhouse to the ground, that this murderer deserves to suffer for what he did,” Jutzi said.
The company took down its website and social media pages within days of the incident, he said. “I don’t need that kind of harassment in my life.”
More concerning is that the North American Animal Liberation Press Office has offered a reward for information about the driver, including his name, whereabouts and a photo. “What do they intend to do with that information?” Jutzi asked.
The whole situation highlights the importance of Bill 156, he said. “A legal protest does not involve stopping traffic, interfering with transport operations, and most importantly, legal protest does not involve verbally harassing truck drivers. In Canada, you’re entitled to work in a harassment-free workplace.”
Nor is it new; vocal opposition and protests against the truck drivers started around six to eight years ago, he said. “For a long time, the drivers’ side has been ignored. Workplace harassment shouldn’t be ignored.”