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Two Abbotsford hog-farm protesters to appeal sentence

Hearing takes place Friday for Amy Soranno and Nick Schafer
Amy Soranno and Nick Schafer are appealing their sentences in relation to a protest in April 2019 at an Abbotsford hog farm. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)

Two animal activists who were convicted for their role in a 2019 protest at an Abbotsford hog farm will have an appeal of their sentences heard on Friday (May 31) in Vancouver.

Amy Soranno and Nick Schafer of Kelowna are hoping to have the B.C. Court of Appeal set aside their 30-day jail sentences and re-sentence them to either a conditional discharge or a conditional sentence, which could include house arrest.

The pair were among four people initially charged in relation to a protest on April 28, 2019 at the Excelsior Hog Farm. The group – who dubbed themselves the “Excelsior 4” – faced a total of 21 charges.

Charges against Geoff Regier were later stayed, and Roy Sasano was acquitted at trial.

Soranno and Schafer, who are spouses, were convicted in July 2022 of one count each of break-and-enter and sentenced in October 2022.

They appealed their convictions on the basis that the trial judge erred when he wouldn’t allow the jury to see video footage obtained from hidden cameras that showed the alleged mistreatment of animals on the hog farm.

The cameras had been placed by members of the Meat the Victims group, to which Soranno and Schafer belonged.

The B.C. Court of Appeal in January of this year upheld the convictions. Soranno and Schaffer have since filed an application with the Supreme Court of Canada to appeal that decision.

Meanwhile, they are appealing their sentences.

RELATED: Two Abbotsford hog-farm protesters sentenced to 30 days in jail

In a press release issued Monday (May 27), the pair alleged that Soranno was “unceremoniously cut off” during her 2022 sentencing hearing and told by Justice Frits Verhoeven that “this is not the platform for you.”

“According to the appeal brief, Verhoeven denied Soranno her ‘well-entrenched right to speak before being sentenced’ and additionally deprived the court of information relevant to her sentencing,” the press release states.

The appeal brief states that the judge’s actions were “condescending, dismissive and illegal.”

“Soranno and Schafer argue that Justice Verhoeven also erred by deciding their beliefs and morals were irrelevant to their culpability, a claim underscored by Verhoeven’s decision to use their political goals as a reason to impose a custodial sentence, basing it on denunciation and deterrence,” the release states.

Soranno states that the judge “can’t have it both ways.”

“Our reasons for engaging in non-violent civil disobedience is either relevant to our case or it’s not. We believe that exposing animal cruelty is a social imperative and highly relevant to our sentencing,” she said.

Soranno and Schafer are planning to hold a press conference and rally outside of the B.C. Court of Appeal on Friday at 9 a.m. The hearing is scheduled to start at 10 a.m.

RELATED: Guilty verdicts stand for 2 Abbotsford hog-farm protesters

Vikki Hopes

About the Author: Vikki Hopes

I have been a journalist for almost 40 years, and have been at the Abbotsford News since 1991.
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