Just why are Gary Grill and James Silver, Anita Kranjc’s legal defence team in the infamous ‘Pig Trial’, not popping corks and toasting each other over glasses of champagne after their client’s welcome acquittal last week?
As we all know, in June 2015 Anita was attending one of the regular Toronto Pig Save’s vigils for animals headed to the slaughterhouse. She gave water through slats in the truck to pigs suffering from heat and thirst. The truck driver angrily confronted her, and the next day she was charged with two criminal offences.
Last Thursday animal advocates everywhere were rejoicing. Anita’s act of compassion was ruled not criminal and she was saved from a possible 10 year jail sentence.
So why were Gary and James not in celebratory mood? Because it wasn’t the win they (and Anita) had hoped for. “Contrary to the claims of many activists, the case did not put the ‘industry on trial’ or result in a ‘victory for animals’.”
On the charge sheet, Anita’s alleged offences were ‘criminal mischief’ and ‘interference with property’. So in a nutshell, the trial hinged on those two things: whether or not Anita was guilty of criminal mischief, and whether or not she had interfered with the property of a third party.
As for the criminal mischief, her team argued that giving water to thirsty pigs was acting for the public good. The judge agreed and dismissed the prosecution’s flimsy argument that the driver did not know if the water was in fact just water.
He also ruled that as the driver of the truck had no qualms about sending the pigs to slaughter in spite of Anita’s action, it was evident he did not believe the animals had been contaminated. The pigs’ ‘owner’ had suffered no financial loss, and his operation had not been affected in any way. There was no ‘interference with property’.
The most important part of Anita’s defence in terms of animal advocacy was the assertion that pigs are not property. As fully sentient, social, thinking, feeling beings, they are as much persons as we humans, and should be recognised as such in law. After all, if even corporations can be legal persons (and rivers and glaciers in some countries of the world), how much more pigs?
The defence called upon several expert witnesses, including Dr Lori Marino. Dr Marino sought to provide evidence that pigs are indeed persons, based on her years, if not decades, of rigorous scientific observation of, and research into different species of animals. Justice Harris chose to dismiss the eminent biopsychologist’s evidence as unscientific and biased – presumably because Lori is a vegan and animal advocate?
Justice Harris made it clear that under Canadian law, dogs and cats are property, and there are no legal grounds for considering pigs as anything other than property. Disappointing, but not surprising.
Ultimately commonsense prevailed with Anita’s acquittal. Commonsense would wonder why anyone performing the compassionate act of trying to relieve a fellow creature’s suffering should be charged with a criminal offence to begin with.
Which leads us to the sting in the tail of this whole story. The incident that sparked the whole commotion emanated from escalating tensions between the animal rights movement and the meat industry.
Gary and James believe that the truck driver’s confrontation of Anita in 2015 was deliberately staged in an attempt to put a stop to Toronto Pig Save’s thrice-weekly vigils. Unsurprisingly, the worst nightmare for those in the meat industry would be animal activism affecting their bottom line. It’s always all about the money.
Consequently, Van Boekel Hog Farms Inc are not happy with Thursday’s verdict. Fearmans Slaughter is not happy. Livestock farmers in Ontario at large are not happy.
“Organisations representing farms in Ontario expressed their disappointment with the decision, highlighting concerns that it would embolden animal rights activists and spark further confrontations between the two groups.
“Actions by Krajnc and activists like her should not be condoned by the courts as they threaten acceptable and legal farming practices and are a threat to food safety,” said Bruce Kelly of Farm and Food Care Ontario.” The Guardian
He added, “We can’t have a food system where people can interfere with food in any stage of the delivery. It’s not safe.” Global News. Some would say, including me, that slaughtering pigs for food is not safe – not safe for the pigs, and not safe for those who keep eating them.
This time, with this pig trial, the vested interests failed. They failed to shut the lid down on Toronto Pig Save, and by default other like-minded activists.
But Justice Harris’s summing up has practically handed the industry a blueprint for winning a conviction next time round. It’s ludicrously simple. Van Boekel Hog Farms’ prosecution of Anita fell down because the truck driver allowed the pigs to go to slaughter as usual, hence into the food supply chain. So all VBHF needs do next time is ‘euthanise’ just one animal declaring it tampered with, contaminated, and no longer fit for the food chain. Hey presto – ‘criminal mischief’ and ‘interference with property’ are proven, the defendant found guilty.
They will try again.
But meanwhile, “one of the unintended consequences of leveling criminal charges against her [Anita] is that the Pig Save movement has taken off. Last year, there were 50 such groups in North America. Now, she said, there are 150.” The Star
And here is this amazing, compassionate, fearless woman on the courthouse steps, after the trial.
Disclaimer I have tried to summarise in brief some of the main points of the trial, for my own benefit as much as anything, as a layperson. If I have misapprehended any of the legal niceties, please do not hesitate to bring them to my attention!
- During the trial, in presenting Anita’s defence, the lawyers refrained from referring to the Eric Van Boekel’s facility where the pigs were reared as a farm, instead using terms like ‘operation’ and ‘units’. After all, who in their right minds would consider such an intensive industrial facility a farm? Answer: the judge. Justice David Harris impatiently swept aside the defence team’s terminology and insisted the ‘hogs’ housing be referred to as barns, and the operation as a whole, a farm. He himself, he declared, was born and brought up on a farm. Does that raise questions of impartiality, I wonder?
- Other expert witnesses at the trial attempted to draw attention to environmental and animal welfare concerns surrounding the rearing, transport and slaughter of the pigs. Justice Harris dismissed these as irrelevant to the case and accused the witnesses of using the trial as a platform for animal activism. Well, why wouldn’t you?
- Anita still faces another charge: of “obstructing police after a truck carrying pigs crashed near the Burlington slaughterhouse killing 42 of them. Krajnc was not blamed for the crash (the truck’s driver was charged with careless driving). But she was charged after Pig Save protestors at the scene crossed police lines in an effort to convince slaughterhouse workers to release some of the injured hogs to a pig sanctuary.” The Star
You can listen to Gary Grill and James Silver’s fascinating assessment of the case at Animal Liberation Currents
Judge acquits woman who gave water to pigs headed to slaughter – The Globe and Mail