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Amidst Abbotsford trial for animal advocates, BC SPCA calls for cameras in slaughterhouses

In 2019 the BCSPCA allegedly turned in a whistleblower for sharing footage from inside a hog farm
Animal rights group allegedly shot video of the conditions for pigs at Excelsior Hog Farm in Abbotsford. (PETA/Youtube screengrab)

In the wake of a trial for three animal-rights activists, who alleged they gathered footage of livestock animal abuse, the BC SPCA released a petition calling for mandatory video surveillance in slaughterhouse facilities on July 14.

“Video surveillance is a powerful monitoring tool that can ensure accountability and transparency in the slaughter process,” stated the BC SPCA.

“The petition and its timing is completely unrelated to the Abbotsford trial and is part of our on-going work with our animal welfare associates across Canada to push for improvements for farm animal welfare. Our advocacy work on this has been under way for some time,” said Lorie Chortyk with the BC SPCA.

Four people linked to the Meat the Victims group were initially charged, but charges against activist and “whistle blower” Geoff Regier were stayed on April 29 during a pre-trial hearing. The four named themselves the “Excelsior 4.”

In a statement, Regier said he had contacted the BC SPCA and presented the animal welfare organization with video footage taken from inside the Abbotsford Excelsior Hog Farm, hoping to make a case for charges of animal cruelty. Instead, the Excelsior 4 says the BC SPCA broke their confidentiality policy and turned Regier over to the Abbotsford Police, resulting in his arrest.

The four members of the group were charged in relation to an April 28, 2019 protest where the Meat the Victims group entered and then occupied the Excelsior Hog Farm.

Footage supposedly taken from inside the farm was released to the public, and Meat the Victims has been steadfast in their belief that the hog farm was committing animal abuse and continues to do so. Since 2019, the group has stated that video surveillance in slaughterhouse facilities should be mandatory as it would aid in the mitigation of livestock animal abuse.

The BCSPCA explained that for the Excelsior case, an investigation did take place, but the issue was that the only evidence of cruelty was a video that was obtained illegally which is inadmissible in court.

A jury found Amy Soranno, from Kelowna, and Nick Schafer guilty on charges of break-and-enter and mischief on July 11. Their sentencing hearing is scheduled for Aug. 26 in Abbotsford.

Soranno made a statement to the press following the guilty verdict, asking for transparency, regulation and mandatory closed-circuit video footage to be taken at all livestock operations.

“Right now in B.C., farms are abusing animals with impunity, which is why we’re calling on the Ministry of Agriculture to implement mandatory CCTV cameras inside all farms and slaughterhouses across the province and to change animal law enforcement from a private charity, the BC SPCA, to a more accountable and aggressive government agency.”

While Chortyk said, the BC SPCA is confident in its ability to conduct investigations when a complaint is received. She explained that the organization regularly investigates and successfully prepares evidence to recommend criminal charges in farm animal cases.

She stated that having 24-hour video surveillance is critical in farm-animal protection.

“This is why the BC SPCA has been pushing government and industry so strongly for video surveillance and other mechanisms for accountability on commercial farms and in slaughterhouses.”

READ MORE: Kelowna woman’s pre-trial begins for Abbotsford hog-farm protest

READ MORE: Abbotsford farmer says 2019 protest at hog farm was ‘hard to deal with’


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Jacqueline Gelineau

About the Author: Jacqueline Gelineau

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