Judge dismisses case of woman who gave water to pigs headed to slaughter

Canada judge says Toronto activist Anita Krajnc did not interfere ‘with the lawful use’ of property in case that rallied animal rights activists
Anita Krajnc in 2015. The case against the Toronto activist has been dismissed by a judge.



A judge in Canada has dismissed a case against a Toronto activist who gave water to pigs heading to the slaughter on a hot day, bringing an end to a two-year case that had become a rallying point for animal rights campaigners around the world.

Anita Krajnc, 49, initially faced up to ten years in prison after she dribbled water through the metal slats of a tractor-trailer carrying the pigs in 2015. She continued to do so even after the driver ordered her to stop, leading the owner of the pigs to file police complaint.

Krajnc – the founder of a group called Toronto Pig Save, whose mission is to “bear witness of suffering of animals in transport and at slaughterhouses” – pleaded not guilty to a charge of mischief, but asserted she had done nothing wrong in helping animals she believed were suffering.

The crown countered that the pigs were the private property of the farmer and raised the possibility that Krajnc could have given the pigs something other than water.

Months after the charge was laid, the crown said it would proceed by summary conviction, meaning Krajnc faced a maximum sentence of six months in jail or a C$5,000 fine (about US$3,600), or both.

On Thursday, Justice David Harris said his decision had been based on the idea of property. “By law in Canada, pigs are not persons. They are property,” he said. “Did Ms Krajnc obstruct, interrupt or interfere with the lawful use, enjoyment or operation of the property? My simple answer to this question is, ‘No. She did not.’”

The pigs, he noted, had managed to make it to their final destination, despite Krajnc’s actions.

“Protesters had given water to pigs before. The driver was aware of this. The slaughterhouse was aware of this. Despite this, the slaughterhouse had never refused to accept a load of pigs for that reason,” he said.

As he dismissed the charge, a loud applause erupted among the many activists who had crowded into the Toronto-area courtroom to hear the verdict.

The case – described as a “landmark case” by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) – attracted media attention around the world as it pitted property rights against animal welfare.

During the six days of court testimony, Krajnc’s lawyers drew comparisons between her actions and those of Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. They seized on the trial to offer a window into the meat industry, calling on witnesses who described its impact on environmental sustainability and animal welfare.

On Thursday, organisations representing farms in Ontario expressed their disappointment with the decision, highlighting concerns that it would embolden animal rights activists and spark further confrontations between the two groups. “Actions by Krajnc and activists like her should not be condoned by the courts as they threaten acceptable and legal farming practices and are a threat to food safety,” said Bruce Kelly of Farm & Food Care Ontario in a statement.

Krajnc said she and her supporters would mark the decision with a vegan lunch at the courthouse before heading to a nearby slaughterhouse to hold an afternoon vigil.

“I’m relieved that the judge recognises that compassion is not a crime, that compassion should never be illegal,” she told the Guardian. “But he did say that pigs under Canadian law are considered property, not persons. So I think we have a lot of work to do still.”


guardian

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