Celebration of agriculture marred by vandals with paint

Tires also damaged Officials uncertain if animal activists are involved

TORONTO, Ont. — Animal rights activists may have picked a poor target if they vandalized pickups and livestock trailers at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair earlier this month.

“If it was activists, and we’re not 100 percent sure, they’re not bettering their cause by doing this,” said Sarah Brien, a spokesperson with Farm and Food Care Ontario.

“These animals here are the best kept animals that you can find anywhere.”

Peter Hohenadel, the event’s director of agriculture and food, said at least 20 farm families were affected by vandalism Nov. 11 and Nov. 13. Paint was sprayed and drizzled on trailers and trucks, and valve stems were cut.

The Royal is not liable for the thousands of dollar of damage be-cause it occurred in a lot a block from the event, but Hohenadel said the fair will pick up the deductible on insurance claims and pay for tire repairs.

“We all feel violated because this is a celebration of agriculture. It’s supposed to bring the country and city together,” he said.

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Dean Craswell, a dairy farmer from Prince Edward Island, said he is unlikely to be deterred by the vandals, but he is angry.

“I had my trailer painted and my truck painted and they cut a tire stem on the trailer. Within four spaces of where I was there was four tire stems cut,” he said. “It’s the third year in a row this has happened here.”

Sheep farmers Ron Gates and Sean McBrien from Ridgetown, Ont., were also hit. With only 30 ewes, Gates is far from being an industrial-sized producer.

“It isn’t the Royal that I blame, it’s the security company over there,” Gates said.

“My family has been coming here since 1955. I’ve had thoughts of not coming back. It costs money to come here. This has pretty well sealed the deal.”

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Gates figures he sustained $1,200 in damage.

Declan Patten of Illinois was not directly affected but expressed deep concern over the vandalism.

“You travel hour after hour to get here and this just adds to the pressure and stress,” said Patten, the marketing and genetics manager with Butlerview Farms.

Added Len Riebof of Dunnville, Ont.: “Everyone here collectively is upset. It’s making people think twice about coming back. It’s a celebration of the industry, but it’s also an investment in time and money.”

Speaking from Los Angeles, Ari Solomon with Mercy for Animals didn’t offer an opinion when asked whether his organization’s cause is helped by such actions.

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He said Mercy for Animals does not condone illegal action.