Four people are facing break-and-enter and mischief charges linked to a large protest at an Abbotsford hog farm last year.
Last year, dozens of activists stormed a Harris Road hog farm to protest what they said was the inhumane treatment of animals at the site. More than 60 people rushed into Excelsior Hog Farm in late April 2019, with dozens sitting “in solidarity” with pigs.
The protest took less place than a month after PETA released hidden-camera footage which it said showed horrific conditions of animals at the farm.
The farm’s owners disputed the allegations, and although the SPCA opened an investigation, it later closed it, saying the footage had been obtained illegally and couldn’t be used in court.
The family that operates the farm detected cameras at the site on March 23, sparking a police investigation. Shortly thereafter, the SPCA released footage of the site.
One person, Amy Sorrano, was arrested during the April 28 incident and was already facing charges. Now three more people have been charged. And they, along with Soranno, are charged not only in connection with the hog farm protest, but with offences on at least four separate days prior to the protest.
According to court documents, Jeff Luke Rigear, Roy Makoto Sasano, Nicholas Steven George Schafer and Soranno all face break-and-enter and mischief charges for an offence dated to Feb. 9, more than two months prior to the protest.
Schafer, Soranno and Rigear are charged with break-and-enter for a Feb. 10 offence. Schafer and Soranno are charged with break-and-enter for offences on March 3 and 5. And Schafer, Sasano and Soranno are charged with break-and-enter and mischief on April 28, the date of the protest.
The four are scheduled to appear in court in early September.
In April, Mayor Henry Braun said he wanted to see charges laid, saying the children of the farm’s owners were “terrified” by the incidents.
“I spent two hours with the family on a Saturday, shortly after the invasion of their farm, and those kids were terrified and they didn’t understand what was going on,” Braun said.
A media liaison for Meat The Victims, the group that organized the protest, said activists remained on the fringes of the property and proceeded straight to the barns.
In a press release, a lawyer for Animal Justice, an animal law advocacy organization, said criminal charges shouldn’t have been laid for actions that were intended to reveal wrongdoing.
“The animal agriculture industry completely lacks transparency and operates in near-total secrecy, without any government oversight of the conditions that animals are kept in,” Camille Labchuk said. “Charging these four individuals for revealing hidden criminal animal cruelty at Excelsior Hog Farm is a massive misuse of justice system resources. Instead of prosecuting people who reveal illegal animal cruelty on farms, police should be focused on monitoring and prosecuting farms that abuse animals.”
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