Fifty activists occupy B.C. hog barn

Members of an animal rights group enter barn implicated in video; one person charged with break and enter, mischief

A busload of animal activists invaded a British Columbia hog operation April 28 in response to video footage claiming to show horrific conditions for the pigs within.

B.C. media reports indicate about 50 protestors from a group called Meat the Victims entered the barn at Excelsior Hog Farms and occupied it for a short period before being removed by police. More than 100 others protested on a nearby road. One person was subsequently charged with breaking and entering and mischief.

The B.C. SPCA visited the Abbotsford farm in the week following the protest and found nothing similar to what was in the video, according to B.C. SPCA chief prevention and enforcement officer Marcie Moriarty, noting a copy of the video had been sent to the SPCA.

“Any other time when we receive a complaint like that, we would attend on the property to do an inspection to determine the current status of animals on that property,” said Moriarty.

“That has been done. At this stage there’s no further legal action that was required.”

She said the farm owners “were very co-operative throughout” the SPCA visit, and further investigation is stalled until information in the video can be verified.

“We were provided with the video clip that was also publicly provided. At this stage we’ve reached out to try to get the full video and access to the individual who took it, but at this stage that person hasn’t come forward. So that part of the investigation is stalled.

“That type of evidence is very challenging in a court situation without having an individual associated with the video.”

If those responsible for the video do come forward, she said all footage would be examined to verify when and where it was taken, over what period and under what conditions.

As it stands, “I’d caution against drawing any conclusions from that video that would be … considered sufficient legal evidence of an offence.”

In a news release, Meat the Victims said its goal is to stop the needless violence inflicted on livestock.

“This facility is not unique in their horrendous treatment of animals,” the release said.

“This is a standard representation of factory farming here in Canada. This action is not about this one facility, or a call for better animal welfare standards, but rather a call to end the inherently violent animal agriculture industry entirely.”

The incident has raised concern among livestock producers and livestock commodity groups about safety, trespass and animal welfare. It was also publicly condemned by federal Agriculture Minister Marie Claude Bibeau, who said protesters should advocate “in front of the right forum” and not invade private property.

The B.C. Pork Producers Association noted its concerns in a statement provided May 8.

“Obviously, this was a very difficult incident for the family. The illegal actions by abolitionists posed a very real risk to animals,” it said.

“We will continue to support our farmers as they do what they do every day, lawfully operating their businesses. We expect that those who break the law will be held accountable for their illegal actions.”

In a previous news release, issued April 23, the BCPPA said the video “was taken by a trespasser at night, it has been edited and lacks context and understanding, but some of the scenes are of concern.”

Association director Chad Goertzen said a swine veterinarian was sent to the farm to see if national standards for animal welfare were being met.

BCPPA president Jack Dewit said in the same release that producers are open to public concerns about animal treatment.

“We ask our neighbours who have concerns to raise them immediately with us, rather than putting our farms and pig health at risk by entering our facilities directly and without our knowledge or permission.”

Excelsior Farms is operated by Ray Binnendyk, a board member of the BCPPA.

In its news release, Meat the Victims said the aim of the protest was “to expose the reality of what is happening to the victims of the ‘meat’ industry and to challenge the current mindset within our society. The truth is being hidden from the public and we believe that people are making choices that go against their values.”

The protest at the barn was a way to force transparency on the industry, it added.

The video that prompted the protest, provided by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, shows lame pigs, dead piglets and sows in farrowing crates. It can be found at www.youtube.com/watch?v=1BA7KjDoXSQ.

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