It’s an unusual case.
Then again, it was an unusual incident. Most involving attention-seeking animal rights activists are.
If you haven’t been following the case of an animal rights activist in Ontario giving water to a pig destined for slaughter, you’ve missed out on something that should shock you back to a changing world, far removed from the farm.
CTV has the details on what unfolded in court this week, but the important points go something like this: Animal rights activists protest as a truck load of pigs bound for a Burlington slaughter plant roll up. One activist, Anita Krajnc, comes up to see the pigs, believes the pigs are dehydrated and leans a bottle into one of the openings for a pig to take a drink. Another activist records the action as the trucker steps out to find out what is going on. Words are exchanged, and police are later contacted by the Oxford County farmer that owned the pigs, and Krajnc is charged with mischief. The charge carries a maximum fine of $5000 and/or jail time.
If you read the comments that go along with the news story, many believe the charge is a waste of the court’s time, or unfair to the activist. To some, it certainly doesn’t look like good PR for the agriculture industry as an activist only tries to give a thirsty pig a drink of water.
It is too bad it has come to this, but then again something had to be done. This isn’t the first time activists have pulled the stunt. Draining bottles in front of pig snouts makes for good video, especially on warm days. There are reports they even toss in food occasionally, like watermelon.
But don’t be fooled. It may look like activists are helping the animal, but it reeks of a publicity stunt. You can call me crass if you like, but understand that if they were just doing it for the animal – would they be recording it? Were they helping the pig or looking for a great image to post online and share? A quick review of the coverage and you can find holes in the story. The woman at the centre of it says she was just giving water to pigs on a “sweltering day”, despite photos showing her wearing a hooded sweatshirt and jeans.
Even the ‘expert witness’ that the defence team brought forward is a fascinating choice. A CBC News reporter pointed out her Twitter profile says she’s a veterinarian for dogs and cats that does house calls around L.A. She’s retweeted several notes about compassion over killing, and going vegan. Her website is even labeled “VeganVet”. Expert witness or activist with a degree? The crown quickly poked holes in her testimony asking how she knew the temperature of the trailer after she testified she didn’t know what time of day the video was shot, and how she knew the trailer was overcrowded with pigs when the video evidence only showed a handful in one spot.
Now, regardless of how this looks, who is at fault, or what the outcome should be, I think it can also be a lesson for the industry. Animal rights activists are going to continue to pull any stunt they think they can get away with to further their cause.
When was the last time you had a conversation with your staff (such as a trucker) about what to do in a situation like this? Are they going to be calm if they need to approach someone? Do you have a policy about whether or not they should even speak to activists? In this case, the line, “these aren’t humans, you dumb frickin’ broad” has been replayed and reprinted dozens of times as the slip the trucker made.
Even if you don’t have employees that travel to the city to encounter activists, have you ever had a conversation about what to do if an activist showed up on your farm? A farmer in our own county had activists show up when he had an open house for a new barn he built. Would you be prepared for that?
Whether or not you think the chances are slim of an activist encounter, it is worth the discussion.
As for the case in Burlington, the trial resumes in October and the industry goes back under the microscope.
The farmer who owned the pigs said it very well — his concerns were for both the welfare of the pigs if the liquid given wasn’t water, and for the safety of activists who were sticking their arms into trailers that are simply stopped at a traffic light. What if one day someone’s arm stays caught as the truck pulls away?
Let’s hope that never happens.
And let’s sit down with our families and teams – even if just for a few minutes – and have a serious talk about safely and effectively dealing with activists.
Related: Who’s Working on Your Farm?