Pig trial closes, the circus is over

So the trial, informally referred to as the “pig trial” has come to a close and the farming community leaves the courtroom with disappointment.

Sort of.

Rather than a one-sided legal win for animal rights activism, the verdict delivered in this mischief case actually supports Ontario farmers in a number of ways.

Let’s start with the main conclusion.

The mischief charge central to this case related to an animal activist impeding a load of pigs during transportation to a Burlington processing plant.

As described by Justice David Harris in his verdict, this charge pursued by the crown was dismissed because activists did not directly stop or impede the truck from moving; instead, they took advantage of a red light.

The “unknown substance” issue around giving water to the animals in the truck also failed to prevent any change in the regular delivery and processing of the hogs. Justice Harris concluded there did not appear to be any obstruction, interruption, or interference with the lawful use, enjoyment, or operation of the pigs.

That said, Justice Harris reaffirmed the right for farmers to raise and transport livestock unhindered. He also recognized the “highly regulated” nature of livestock transport, where things like temperature, humidity and ride duration actually do factor into decision making.

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In addition, Harris referred to some of the defendant’s views as taking things “much further” than what was supported by testifying scientists, scientists that were specifically chosen to support the defence team. He pointed out, for instance, the contextual irrelevancy and absurdity of comparing the defendant with civil-rights icons, while highlighting the juicy media clips such comparisons provided.

He also disagreed with some of the “expert” opinions delivered in support of the defence, in part because the individuals providing testimony were not qualified to make many of their conclusions and because of obvious biases.

In terms of the act of giving water to pigs, Justice Harris also noted the defendant “did not need to break the law” to achieve her initial objective; providing water for “temporary relief” was, he says, ineffective anyway since the pigs would all have been watered upon arriving at the plant in a few minutes.

He pointed out that had the pigs really been in such a poor state, they all would not have been accepted at the plant, and they were.

Overall, he judged the defendant would not have been acting with “legal justification or colour of right” even if the law had indeed been broken.

Notably, Justice Harris recognized that the whole case was at its core, an opportunity for animal rights groups to promote their worldview in the media.

As his verdict describes, the whole affair required five days of evidence, one day of submissions, one day for judgment, and countless remand appearances.

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All in all, this provided the defence with “all the publicity they could hope for.”

And while this trial was going on, on the final day of testimony, a murder trial in the next courtroom had neither spectators nor media.

The whole thing was a circus, and one that became more visceral once the verdict was handed down.

The initially docile activist group even got a little physical and that’s to say nothing of the rather colourful emails and phone calls received into our office after the fact.

Still, the fact remains that the legal result has changed little.

What remains to be seen, however, is how protesters fare with and use their next charge of obstructing police.

Matt McIntosh is with Farm & Food Care Ontario.

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  • Harold

    If there is a circus, it is truly held by those who do not understand the Court’s nor understand our Legal or or Lawful systems. The Courts are not a Circus nor are they used as one in contempt. In all Trial’s that come before the Court, there is a Claim (Claimant- this could at any time be you Matt – you are not immune to Harm or Injury) and opposite the Claim, is a Wrong-Doer. (Defendant) The Claimant provides the evidence of Harm (money/property etc) and/or Injury, (body) but under the penalty of Law, neither is the Claimant excused for giving any False Testimony, or False Evidence or a false claim. (Penalty of Perjury) Do you want to go to Court with a false Claim and Lie?; be my guest. On behalf of the Claimant, the Lawyer presents to the Judge – the Law and Evidence of the Wrong-doing – and the terms of the Remedy for the Wrong doing. ( previously your “Law”-“yer” tells you if your Claim is too weak, or if strong enough to proceed; don’t they?) Because ALL Claims brought before the Courts may not be applicable to the Defendant or may not be truthful, the Defendant lawfully remains innocent until proven guilty – BY the Claimant – and Lawyer’s argue
    (argue = to make clear) the validity of the proof of claim, whereby the sitting Judge hears only the facts of the case. (the Defendant can at any time be you Matt- You are not immune to false accusations) The Defendant can hire a Lawyer to present to the Judge, possibly an over looked law that aids in the defense and to also challenge the evidence presented in order that the facts of the evidence are made clear. (cross examination/objection’s) Both Lawyers present the law’s and arguments to the Judge because the sitting Judge cannot lawfully practice Law from the Bench. (impartial) The Judge delivers his opinion (verdict) from the preponderance of the evidence that is remaining on the “table” at the end of the trial. (no evidence = no claim) That being said, no one “wins” in Court – they are compensated for a wrong doing; you don’t “win” something that you had already previously owned. No one looses in Court- they either gain a debt/burden or they are relieved of that debt/burden, or gain little of both. In Court you do not “get what you want” – you get only what is rightfully and lawfully yours. In clarity Matt, the only thing you heard from Judge Harris was a recounting of the valid arguments and valid objection’s given by both Lawyer’s. (none were of his own description or of his thoughts of “irrelevancy and absurdity”; they were recited Lawyer words) Further, a Judge does not “reaffirmed the right”; (sic) you have a Lawful or a Legal Right, or you do not. Reaffirmation and “disappointment” are for those who didn’t know that they had any Rights or knew of the Laws in the first place, but nonetheless, a Judge hasn’t the power to remove any Rights/Laws from neither the Accused or the Claimant. Clearly In this Case, the Claimant/Lawyer failed in the burden of proof or proof of intent, and being so, some of the Charges within the Claim were invalid. Moreover, some of the comments that a Judge can make are only side notes and they were not relevant in the outcome of the Case. For example: “Justice Harris recognized that the whole case was at its core, an opportunity for animal rights groups to promote their worldview in the media”. This statement was likely not derogatory in meaning but more so a – outside of the case – logical outcome due to the claimant bringing the defendant to Court. The defendant does not bring himself to Court other than by a Court’s order to do so. This side note opinion is not a fact that is used in determining a verdict. The pending gain of publicity does not in itself repeal any laws nor does it invalidate the facts of the evidence. The verdict can be lawfully correct while at the same time the Judge’s side-note opinion’s of anyone’s true intent or future is absolutely wrong. The Judge is not a deity but is only human after all; Case closed.
    There is no “circus” going on in any Court, and no clowns as Defendants or Claimants, but by the description and wording found in this Article it is clear to me where the Circus is truly held. A circus is held only in the minds of the ones who think that a Judge practices Law from the Bench and therefore a Judge represents the Defendant and Claimant and that every Claim brought into the Court is a valid Claim and that only “politically correct” cases are worthy of a Court hearing. Perhaps the “circus thinking people” are watching too many movies, TV News casts, TV “reality” Judges, and other “reality” TV shows.