The recent court case of Anita Krajnc, informally called the “Pig Trial,” has come to a close, and the farming community leaves the courtroom with disappointment.
Rather than a one-sided legal rout for animal rights activism, the verdict delivered in this criminal mischief case actually supports Ontario farmers in a number of ways.
Let’s start with the main conclusion.
The mischief charge central to this case related to an animal activist impeding a load of pigs during transportation to a Burlington processing plant. As described by Justice David Harris in his verdict, this charge pursued by the Crown was dismissed because activists did not directly stop or impede the truck from moving; instead, they took advantage of a red light. The “unknown substance” issue around giving water also failed to prevent any change in the regular delivery and processing of the hogs on the truck. Consequently, Justice Harris concluded there did not appear to be any obstruction, interruption, or interference with the lawful use, enjoyment, or operation of the pigs.
That said, Justice Harris reaffirmed the right for farmers to raise and transport livestock unhindered. He also recognized the “highly regulated” nature of livestock transport, where things like temperature, humidity, and ride duration actually do factor into decision making.
In addition, Harris referred to some of the defendant’s views as taking things “much further” than what was supported by testifying scientists – scientists that were specifically chosen to support the defence team. He pointed out, for instance, the contextual irrelevancy and absurdity of comparing the defendant with civil-rights icons, while highlighting the juicy media clips such comparisons provided.
He also disagreed with some of the expert testimony delivered in support of the defence, in part because the individuals providing testimony were not qualified to make many of their conclusions, and because of their obvious biases.
In terms of the act of giving water to pigs, Justice Harris also noted the defendant “did not need to break the law” to achieve her initial objective; providing water for “temporary relief” was, he says, ineffective anyway since the pigs would all have been watered upon arriving at the plant in a few minutes.
He even touched on the fact that, despite the “dire forecasts” of the defence on the condition of the farm animals, all made it to and were accepted in the plant in good condition. Had they been in a poor state, this would not have happened.
Overall, he judged the defendant would not have been acting with “legal justification or colour of right” even if the law had indeed been broken.
On the final day of testimony, a murder trial in the next courtroom had neither spectators nor media
Notably, Justice Harris’ recognized that the whole case was, at its core, an opportunity for animal rights groups to heavily promote their worldview in the media – and one they certainly tried to grab by the horns. As his verdict describes, the whole affair required five days of evidence, one day of submissions, one day for judgement, and countless remand appearances.
All in all, this provided the defence with “all the publicity they could hope for.”
Having spent some time in the courtroom myself, it certainly seemed like the defence was keen on drawing things out – at one point they even wanted to spend several hours transferring video files. Naturally, it’s not much of a stretch to conclude the defence was willingly spending public time and resources to increase visibility.
And all this while, on the final day of testimony, a murder trial in the next courtroom had neither spectators nor media.
The whole thing was truly a circus, and one that became more visceral once the verdict was handed down. Indeed, the initially docile activist group even got a little physical – a far cry from holding the courtroom door for those representing animal agriculture earlier in the case – and that’s to say nothing of the rather colourful emails and phone calls received in our office after the fact.
Still, the fact remains that the legal result itself has changed little, and whether that’s a good or bad thing for animal agriculture is not something I’m going to speculate on.
— Matt McIntosh is with Farm & Food Care Ontario