Kelowna animal rights protesters jailed for ‘occupying’ pig farm | infonews


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October 12, 2022 – 7:00 pm

Two animal rights activists who, along with around 200 others, broke into an Abbotsford pig farm as part of a political protest, have been sentenced to 30 days in jail.

According to an Oct. 12 BC Supreme Court ruling, Justice Frits Verhoeven said it was “inaccurate” to characterize the event as “merely a protest” because Amy Elysia Soranno and Nicholas Steven George Schafer, both of Kelowna, “orchestrated (the) massive invasion and occupation (of) a private farm.”

The decision says that in April 2019, Soranno and Schafer carried out a massive break and enter at the Excelsior pig farm in Abbotsford.

The couple recruited and organized around 200 people to take part in the protest at the farm which is home to 13,000 to 15,000 pigs.

“Organizers hoped the event itself would attract as much media attention as possible. They also planned to require farmers to allow television reporters with television cameras into the farm facilities, so to view, record and publicly broadcast farm operations and practices,” the judge said. “Their plans have been successfully carried out.”

The ruling says about 50 protesters entered the barn, along with Soranno and Schafer, while the other 150 stayed outside.

When the police arrived, they realized they did not have the resources to forcibly evict the protesters.

Soranno began to negotiate with the police and demanded that the television news media, who were stationed outside, be allowed to visit the facility.

The three brothers who own the farm, Calvin, Jeff and Raymond Binnendyk agreed to the media tour.

“Their agreement was made under duress, in circumstances of practical duress,” the judge said.

After the media tour, police began arresting protesters.

This is not the first time the couple have been involved in high-profile protests.

Soranno, 29, and Schafer, 36, made headlines in 2019 when they chained themselves with other activists to the Kelowna branch of Interior Savings due to the financial institution’s support of Ribfest in Kelowna.

In the Abbotsford farm case, Soranno and Schafer argued that they should be given parole, which means they wouldn’t have a criminal record.

“They believe that the raising of animals for meat is morally wrong, cruel and unnecessary, and harmful to the environment. They also believe that the standard industry practices involved in what they describe as animal husbandry industrial use of animals for meat is cruel and constitutes animal abuse”. reads the decision. “They believe that if the public were better informed about industry practices, the public would agree. They would like to see a world in which animals are not raised for meat production.”

The couple argued that these were peaceful, respectful and non-violent protest activities.

The Crown argued that the sentence should specifically deter the couple from committing future offenses and that they should be sentenced to 90 days in jail.

Judge Verhoeven pointed out that the couple were part of a small group of key planners and organizers.

“The offenders deliberately staged a massive invasion and occupation of private property, lasting several hours, in order to illegally achieve their political ends. There was a risk of violence which fortunately did not occur,” said Justice. “The offenders are not young people. They are intelligent, well-educated adults who fully understood what they were doing and that it was illegal. They felt justified in breaking the law for what they saw as their goals. superiors.”

The judge said the couple’s moral responsibility was at the highest level.

“This type of behavior must be denounced and deterred in the strongest possible terms,” ​​the judge said. “The sentence must send a message that deters others. A lesser sentence such as a fine, suspended sentence or probation alone would not be appropriate and would not meet the need.”

The judge said he would have given them both 60 days in jail, but due to Soranno’s “precarious” health issues, he settled for 30 days in jail.

The judge also said the sentence could be served intermittently, which probably means just weekends or a few days at a time.

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Michael A. Bynum