Abbotsford’s mayor says he wants to see criminal charges laid against animal-rights protesters who invaded a hog farm last year.
Last April, around 60 activists affiliated with the Meat The Victims animal rights group entered a Harris Road hog farm and refused to leave. The farm was targeted after hidden cameras allegedly placed in the barns filmed what activists said was the mistreatment of animals.
No criminal charges have been laid yet, though. The BC Prosecution Service said the matter remains “under review for charge assessment.”
Last week, after an extended speech about shortcomings in Canada’s justice system, Mayor Henry Braun said he wants the leaders of last year’s protest to face trespassing charges.
But a media liaison for the animal-rights group that staged the process says the police investigation has been a waste of resources and criminal prosecution isn’t in the public interest.
Braun told council last week that, shortly after the incident, he had spent time with the family that owns the farm.
“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. “I keep asking the (police) chief: When is Crown counsel going to lay charge approval? I’m still waiting. I’m hoping they’re actually going to do something, because it’s not OK for 60 people to go onto a farm and terrorize three kids.”
Braun said the protest demands legal recourse.
“If I come visit you in your backyard, I’m going to be arrested,” he said. “Maybe not all 60, but for sure the ringleaders should be charged as a signal to others that this is not OK.
“If there are no charges laid, I intend to make more noises about this because this is not OK and the farming community is very upset.”
But Dan Moskaluk, a media liaison for Meat The Victims and a former RCMP officer, says police should put their limited resources elsewhere.
“It’s pretty mind-boggling when we consider we have more serious crimes,” he said. To proceed with charges, Crown counsel must determine that there is a strong likelihood of conviction and that charges would be in the public interest. Moskaluk said it was questionable whether any charges wouldmeet that standard.
Moskaluk said protesters remained mostly on the fringes of the farm property targeted last year, with activists heading straight to a barn. He said it’s possible that a large protest along Harris Road itself could have been troubling for the family, but he said that event was a peaceful and legal demonstration.
He equated the incident with whistle-blowing.
“All we’re asking for is that there be total transparency of this industry as to what it’s hiding from the public, and the only way to get this information and these images to the public is to trespass onto these properties. There’s no intent to commit an unlawful act while they’re on the property. These protests are non-violent.”
The BC SPCA has investigated incidents at the farm, but no animal cruelty charges have been laid. The owner of the farm has said he believes some of the footage wasn’t shot at his operation.
The BC SPCA closed its initial investigation in May, after the person who shot video did not come forward. The case was re-opened after the BC SPCA obtained new footage from a person who did reveal their identity.
A BC SPCA spokesperson told The News last week that no animal cruelty charges are forthcoming.
“Crown counsel was not able to move forward with the case because the evidence that was sent to us was obtained illegally so it would not have held up in court,” Lorie Chortyk wrote in an email.
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