The case was a loser from the get-go. Last month an animal activist was found not guilty of criminal mischief for offering liquid to pigs on a livestock truck headed to a Burlington slaughterhouse.
From the outset, it looked like criminal mischief: Creepy strangers swarmed a truck when the traffic light turned red and offered a bottled liquid to pigs. But the owner of the pigs, the truck driver and the meat processor didn’t think the invasion was serious enough to take the pigs out of the food system. While the truck driver testified he didn’t know what the activist gave to the pigs, if he really thought the liquid was something other than water, why did he immediately afterwards drop the pigs off at a slaughterhouse to become grocery store food? That, according to the judge, was key.
Activist Anita Krajnc could have been convicted for the same actions. She didn’t have to do one thing differently. You can’t say the same for those handling the pigs. The protagonists agreed by their actions that the activist fed water. No judge would hand down a conviction based on that.
On the day of the court decision on the courthouse steps, farm groups in a joint statement fretted that the acquittal was going to ramp up the number of activists feeding animals on livestock trucks.
I agree — but this could all have been avoided if the case had been handled differently. First of all, it should never have been pursued by the Crown attorney. He must have known he was backing a loser. Farmers Forum phoned our go-to Ottawa farm lawyer, Kurtis Andrews, who told us flat-out there was no way the Crown would get a conviction. (Our reporter, Connor Lynch, filed that story one month before the judge ruled). Their argument was “hollow,” Andrews said. “Actions speak louder than words.”
What should have been a slam drunk for the owner of the pigs, the truck driver and animal agriculture, was twisted into a slam dunk for animal activism and the false perception that activists now have the green light to accost livestock trucks on a public road and feed the animals.
This is a strange case because only the animal activist knows for sure that she gave water to the pigs. How does anyone know what the next so-called activist will do? If you’re wondering where the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is on this file, forget it. CFIA media relations officer Tammy Jarbeau explained that the CFIA handles humane transportation regulations, not food safety in transit.
There are already laws requiring farmers to document on-farm visitors, properly train staff, lock up medicines and remove certain chemicals from the premises. But we’re going to allow any yahoo with a bottle to give Porky his last meal before he ends up on our plate?
I’ve been to enough demonstrations to know that police see their role as peacekeepers by their presence. But shouldn’t they be upholding the law by making arrests when people step out onto a public roadway and tamper with private property, putting their own safety at risk? Especially if they have been warned that they will be arrested if they do so?
There’s more weirdness in all of this. Krajnc equates animals with human beings. But does anyone in his right mind think that Krajnc would think that strangers should be allowed to reach their hands into the backseat of a car and offer children a piece of chocolate?
Animal activists should not be getting away with their assaults. Farm groups can stop them by being ready and willing to pull a pot of pigs in transport and have them tested and document their costs. Then they can pursue criminal charges. Or pay legal fees to pursue this civilly, where burden of proof is easier, and seek damages and court costs from the activist. Or document how much money an activist is costing them by holding up livestock trucks at an intersection — and seek appropriate damages for that.
They might also want to encourage an MP to forward a private member’s bill to stop food tampering in a public place before it becomes next week’s dinner.