A Litigation Article from All-Creatures.org

Activists Who Exposed Animal Cruelty at Excelsior Hog Farm in 2019 Receive 30-Day Jail Sentence

From Excelsior4.org
October 2022

The system is designed to protect the animal agriculture industry and let animal farms like Excelsior continue their abusive practices with impunity. We’re here to say, 'Enough is enough!'

caged Pig

Abbotsford, BC – Two animal activists—Amy Soranno and Nick Schafer—were each sentenced to 30 days in jail. Soranno and Schafer, who were convicted at trial in July of one count of break-and-enter and mischief for their role in exposing animal cruelty at Excelsior Hog Farm, will begin their sentence on October 21 at the Okanagan Corrections Centre. Both were also sentenced to a year probation and a prohibition on making contact with Excelsior, its owners, or any animal farm during this period.

Soranno and Schafer are appealing their conviction and sentence. Their legal counsel will also be filing an application for bail pending appeal. If the bail application is granted by the BC Court of Appeal, Soranno and Schafer may have their sentence deferred until after the appeal is heard.

Activist protest

Soranno and Schafer were arrested in 2019 along with Roy Sasano and Geoff Regier, who together are known as the Excelsior 4. All four were arrested in 2019 following a mass protest at the Abbotsford hog farm and charged with more than 20 indictable offences. All of Regier's charges were dropped after a pretrial hearing in May, and Sasano was acquitted at trial.

During the trial, BC Supreme Court Justice Frits Verhoeven blocked the defence from showing the jury any of the video footage of animal cruelty at Excelsior, including the footage the activists were accused of exposing. Justice Verhoeven also prevented the defence from arguing the hog farm had engaged in unlawful animal abuse, the reason for their acts civil disobedience.

During the sentencing hearing in August—normally a time when defendants can make statements to the court—Justice Verhoeven refused to allow Soranno to talk about the animals inside the hog farm or to make a statement explaining why she engaged in civil disobedience that day. The statement that Soranno was prevented from making in court can be read here: https://excelsior4.org/amystatement.

"This case shows in stark terms the utter failure of the animal agriculture industry and law enforcement to protect farmed animals from abuse," said acquitted Excelsior 4 defendant Roy Sasano. "The Crown is more interested in criminalizing and jailing nonviolent activists than holding animal abusers accountable." Excelsior Hog Farm has never had to answer for its well-documented criminal animal cruelty.

The Excelsior 4 case is rife with official negligence and misconduct. The Abbotsford police lost important video evidence and destroyed multiple cameras found inside the hog farm, which formed the basis of the break-and-enter charges. Instead of recommending charges against Excelsior after being provided ample video evidence of animal cruelty, the BCSPCA turned Regier—a whistleblower—over to police, in violation of its confidentiality policy. And, the Crown withheld key evidence until the trial, putting the defence at a considerable disadvantage.

Soon after Soranno and Schafer were sentenced, dozens of supporters staged a peaceful protest at Excelsior Hog Farm in an effort to keep attention on the animal cruelty that activists argue should have been the focus of this case.

"With nonviolent activists being sent to jail for exposing animal cruelty, the priorities of government and industry are clear," said Zoe Peled, a supporter of the Excelsior 4. "The system is designed to protect the animal agriculture industry and let animal farms like Excelsior continue their abusive practices with impunity. We’re here to say, 'Enough is enough!'"

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