The “Pig Trial” began on August 24th and 25th. Toronto Pig Save co-founder, Anita Krajnc, is facing charges for giving water to pigs en route to slaughter who were, as an expert testified last Thursday, “in all likelihood, in severe distress.” Although Anita is facing charges, it is the factory farming industry that is on trial.
We praise those who intervene on behalf of a dog in a hot car. Yet pigs, whose intelligence is likened to that of a toddler, are commodified, degraded to mere property or “things”, and robbed of their individuality. This concept of sentient beings as property is part of what Save activists seek to address in the Pig Trial.
In Canada, pigs are allowed to be transported for up to 36 hours without food or water. These are some of the weakest standards in the world.
The farmer behind the charges, Eric Van Boekel, and his truck driver both took the stand. Krajnc’s lawyers, James Silver and Gary Grill, ran through a lengthy line of questioning of the farm and its operations in order to demonstrate that what Anita was doing was truly in the public good.
Krajnc’s lawyer’s cross-examination of the driver made it clear that there was no real “mischief” involved: no profits were lost, the “property” – such that it is – was not damaged, nor was the driver impeded from doing his job.
Van Boekel was asked details of his operation including the treatment of the pigs, confinement practices, antibiotics, nutrition, and environmental impacts.
When describing “piglet processing”, Van Boekel explained how piglets’ teeth are cut and their tails docked by crushing the bone. He noted, “It hurts like hell, but [the piglets] won’t remember it.”
Disturbingly, Van Boekel made many comparisons to human mothers while on the stand. When describing the containment facilities for pregnant pigs, he stated, “Like most mothers can attest to, their hormones flare up. They kind of don’t know what they’re doing.” He explained that hormones combined with their territorial nature was the rationale behind confining pregnant pigs in “gestation stalls” for days on end.
Van Boekel explained how female pigs are artificially inseminated with a pregnancy lasting for 114 days. After little more than a month, her piglets are weaned, and she has only 4-9 days before she is impregnated again. I should hope sympathetic women everywhere would be outraged.
Most ironic was the questioning that explored environmental impacts, such as when Van Boekel plead guilty after his farming operation contaminated a local river.
Van Boekel suggests he was concerned about “contaminants” Krajnc may have had in the “unknown liquid”. But, when samples were offered, the driver refused without even once checking the animals to see if they were in distress.
Despite proclamations of concerns about “contaminants”, no precautions have been taken since, despite the hundreds of individuals joining Krajnc every week.
It is clear these are not the motivations for laying these charges but, in the driver’s own words in his statement to the police, “[the activists] are messing with our livelihood.”
Krajnc and Toronto Pig Save have sparked a worldwide movement of “Save” groups. She and hundreds of others bear witness to animals on their way to slaughter. These animals are scared. They can hear the screams and smell the blood.
Pig Save also uses social media as a tool to ensure their stories do not remain invisible. It is clear their activism is having an effect. More than ever, people are talking about where their food comes from.
Bearing witness is not easy. But, as Krajnc states, when one sees suffering it is our duty to move closer and try to help, not to look away.
It is past time for our laws to be updated to give all non-human animals the respect and dignity they deserve.
The Pig Trial resumes on October 3rd in Burlington.
#PigTrial #CompassionIsNotACrime #StandWithAnita
Note: An edited version of this letter was published in the Cambridge Times.