Three animal rights activists stand trial over 2019 pig farm occupation
Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada – It’s been three years since two hundred animal rights activists descended on the Excelsior Pig Farm on April 28, 2019 “to expose the reality of what happens to victims of the ‘meat’ industry and to challenge the current mindset within our society”, according to the militant group Meat The Victims. More than a year later, a total of four activists faced multiple charges, but today three of them are on trial at the end of June 2022.
Below is a video exclusively given to Unicorn Riot and produced by Excelsior 4 defendants. UR did not edit or produce this video, and is share it to provide visual context to the story. Content Notice: Animal Abuse and Death.
During the farm action, about 50 of the activists entered the building where they witnessed dead pigs in a dumpster, pigs lying on the ground unable to get up due to injuries, and “Row after row of pregnant pigs crammed into metal crates the size of their own bodies, unable even to turn or move for months.”
The seven-hour occupation ended with an agreement that activists would leave if some of their demands were met – with mainstream media getting permission to enter the farm and take pictures and vets checking the animal welfare.
Before the police allowed them to walk free, they recorded everyone’s credentials and ultimately decided to bring one person, Amy Soranno, to jail.
Then police plunged into a massive months-long investigation into the Excelsior occupation, which included reviewing a police report from a month earlier when an Excelsior worker found two hidden cameras in the farm. On March 22, 2019, Constable Taylor “seized a bag of Excelsior Hog Farm PR SD cards” and turned it over to Operational Support Officer (OSO) Wilding at Police Department Headquarters. The next day, a sergeant asked Constable Taylor to review the footage on the SD cards, but when she went to the lockers on the property, they weren’t there and couldn’t be located.
Days before the Excelsior occupation, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) released an anonymous video on April 24, 2019, from inside the pig farm, and filed an animal cruelty report against Excelsior with the British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (BCSPCA). The the video showed pigs with “volleyball-sized hernias” and deceased pigs and piglets.
The BCSPCA announced on May 29, 2019 that it could not recommend animal cruelty charges because the person(s) responsible for the video had not come forward.
On July 10, 2019, Geoff Regier came forward after the BCSPCA promised his identity would be kept confidential. However, soon after, they handed him over to the police. Along with Regier, Nick Schafer and Roy Sasano have also been charged in what is believed to have been uncovered during the police investigation.
During pre-trial hearings in March and April 2022, the defense stated its intention to expose misconduct by the Abbotsford Police Department, including the disappearance of SD cards, and to expose the BCSPCA for having improperly handed Regier over to the police. Without any official explanation, the Crown prosecutor decided to drop the charges against Regier.
Now three of the “Excelsior 4” are set to begin their four-week jury trials on June 27, 2022, facing a combined total of 18 counts of break and enter and criminal mischief. Amy Soranno and Nick Schafer each face a maximum of 70 years in prison, and Roy Sasano faces a maximum of 40 years in prison. However, if the court treats a barn as a “residence,” then the maximum penalty would be life in prison.
“The fact that we are still facing prison terms while Excelsior Hog Farm is free to continue its abusive practices is a travesty of justice. This case further illustrates the evident bias against animals and activists in the animal agriculture industry, the BCSPCA and the police.“
Soranno continued: “Our trial will shine a light on the criminal animal abuse taking place at Excelsior, and the failure to hold them and other factory farms accountable.”
Along with demanding that the pig farm be held accountable, animal rights activists are calling on BC Agriculture Minister Lana Popham to replace the BCSPCA – which is a private charity and the only animal abuse organization in British Columbia – by a more effective government agency. to combat cruelty to animals in the province.
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