Activist Could Face 10 Years in Jail for Giving Water to Slaughterhouse-Bound Pigs
Canadian animal rights activist Anita Krajnc could face up to 10 years in prison for giving water to pigs who were heading to a slaughterhouse on a scorching summer day.
10 years, because she had the audacity to give thirsty pigs water on a hot day. Let that soak in for a minute.
Krajnc is the co-founder of Toronto Pig Save, the organization that encourages people to “bear witness” to the suffering of animals in transport and at slaughterhouses. During all day vigils, volunteers do what they can to ease the suffering of pigs—including giving them water on hot days. They stand outside the slaughterhouse each week on a location that’s come to be known as Pig Island, holding signs to raise awareness of the horrors passing through. They also capture the terror in photos and videos for the world to see.
On one such day last summer when a Van Boekel Hog Farms slaughterhouse transportation truck filled with pigs headed to Fearman’s Pork was stopped, Krajnc and another activist started giving water to the thirsty pigs, something they’d been doing for over two years.
Care2’s Jessica Ramos describes:
On June 22, when a Van Boekel Hog Farms slaughterhouse transportation truck headed to Fearman’s Pork was stationary, Krajnc and another female activist took the opportunity to film and to give water to thirsty pigs — or what the court disclosure describes as: “spraying an unknown liquid into the trailer where the hogs were situated.”
The driver, later identified as Jeffrey Veldjesgraaf in the same court disclosure, approached her and told her to stop.
He also had some pretty un-gentlemanly things to say. Though there was no physical altercation to speak of, as you can see in this video of the incident, things got ugly, and although the police didn’t intervene at the scene, Krajnc was later served with a police summons and charged with criminal mischief.
It turns out the owner of the pigs, Ontario farmer Eric Van Boekel, filed a police complaint the day after the incident, claiming that his pigs were treated in accordance with all national standards and regulations.
Therein lies part of the problem; if the way his company treats animals is legal, then national standards and regulations are wrong. It shouldn’t be legal to keep and transport animals that are smarter than 3-year old children in deplorable conditions.
In the heat of summer those metal trucks heat up like ovens, but where’s the water for the jam-packed animals? In winter, pigs are forced to endure freezing temperatures to the point where their frostbitten bodies sometimes stick to the truck walls. Other times their legs drag underneath the truck. And after enduring the long hard trip without access to food, water or warmth, their reward is slaughter. That is, if they make the journey.
Earlier this week Krajnc publicly spoke out about her June 22 actions and the subsequent charges, making her case by answering the question, “Should I go to jail for giving a thirsty pig water?” in an opinion piece published in the Toronto Star.
“Offering water to a thirsty pig is an act of love and compassion,” she writes. “It is not only a right, but a duty we all share. Causing the pigs to suffer in the first place is what is wrong.”
In her letter, Krajnc identifies another problem in all this: “It’s wrong to see pigs as property, just as it was wrong hundreds of years ago to see human slaves as property and women as chattel — the property of men. The law needs changing.”
As Thomas Jefferson once said, “If a law is unjust, a man is not only right to disobey it, he is obligated to do so.” So is a woman, I would add.
I asked Anita Krajnc what inspired her to write the Toronto Star piece. Here’s what she told me:
I wanted people to understand that the simple act of giving water to thirsty pigs is the right thing to do and I wanted to share some historical context on the origins of our group and the influence Leo Tolstoy has had on our group’s main strategy of bearing witness. I wanted tell the story of how a dog, Mr. Bean, helped create our group, Toronto Pig Save, five years ago and encourage people to realize that there is no meaningful difference between the dogs we walk and the pigs trapped in slaughterhouse trucks yearning to play in the fields.
She quotes Tolstoy in her article, as he’s influenced their group’s philosophy and approach to love, nonviolence and the duty to bear witness. As for Mr. Bean, well, read her article to see how he ties in.
Krajnc also pointed out to me that what they are doing is only a partial form of bearing witness. “We are not fully helping the animals since they are going to slaughter, but only offering small acts of compassion by giving them water before they enter the worst place imaginable… a mass industrial killing facility.” Then she referenced activists in China who “fully bear witness when they stop transport trucks carrying dogs to slaughter and rescue all the animals.” She says, “We admire Chinese animal advocates for their brave activism.”
The June incident has gained worldwide attention. For those who write it off as a mere publicity stunt, Krajnc says, “Giving water to pigs was not a stunt, as some media commentators have suggested.” She contends, “As animal lovers, bearing witness means being present for the pigs. We are there to show them compassion, tell their stories, and help the world feel pity for their plight.”
If it was a publicity stunt, then I say more power to them. The poor treatment of pigs in the pork industry deserves the world’s attention.
In October, Krajnc appeared in Milton court, after which she said she would rather go to jail than pay a fine or make any concessions in relation to the criminal charge she faces, according to the Burlington Post. Then after a pre-trial hearing last Monday, Krajnc told the Guardian, “It’s an outrage. It’s insane to charge somebody with criminal mischief for doing that.”
Van Boekel explained his side to the Guardian: “It’s a free country. Their views – we don’t agree – but they have a right to their opinion as we do ours. If they’d like to protest in a safe and reasonable manner, they’re afforded those rights.”
How he’s determined that giving water to trapped, thirsty pigs is unsafe for activists is a head scratcher.
According to the Guardian, Krajnc’s next pretrial date is December 15, and the earliest her case is expected in court is next August.
Krajnc sums up, “On a sweltering June day, I offered water to hot and thirsty pigs. Now I’m in court, facing a criminal mischief charge that carries a $5,000 fine and up to 10 years in prison.”
What do you think? Should Krajnc go to jail for giving a thirsty pig water?
If you ask me, I’d say if anything, she deserves a medal, not a criminal record. But you tell me. Share your thoughts in the comments.
Krajnc told me that it’s everyone’s duty to not look away, but to come as close as they can to suffering animals and play their part in overcoming injustice and creating the world we want to see. She hopes that with this case being a national media story and gaining attention at the international level, that more people will get involved in advocating for animals by joining vigils or starting a Save group of their own.
- You can read Krajnc’s Toronto Star letter here.
- Expand the Pig Save Network: Toronto Pig Save can help you start your own pig save group. Or chicken, or cow.
- Consider signing this petition if you haven’t already done so: Compassion Isn’t a Crime: Giving Thirsty Pigs Water Isn’t a Crime
Photo Credit: Facebook/Toronto Pig Save