Protestors gather at the BC SPCA following the first court appearance of the four individuals charged in the Excelsior Hog Farm incident from April 2019. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)

Four Abbotsford pig-farm activists now facing 21 charges after first court appearance

Protests occur at Abbotsford Provincial Courthouse and BC SPCA following Thursday’s appearance

Four animal rights activists were in a provincial courtroom Thursday (Sept. 3) in their first hearing for break-and-enter and mischief charges linked to a large protest at an Abbotsford hog farm last year.

Dozens of fellow activists lined up at 9 a.m. outside the courthouse in Abbotsford in support of Amy Soranno, Jeff Luke Rigear, Roy Makoto Sasano and Nicholas Steven George Schafer.

RELATED: Four activists face charges linked to 2019 Abbotsford hog-farm protest

The four now face 21 charges, with Soranno herself facing five counts of break-and-enter and two counts of mischief. They will next appear at Abbotsford provincial court on Nov. 2.

Soranno spoke to media outside of the courthouse and stated that she and the others gathered are upset because they say Excelsior Hog Farm should be the ones facing charges.

“Excelsior Hog Farm was caught committing criminal animal abuse,” she said, claiming video footage shows workers shocking pigs in the face with electrical prods and many other abusive behaviours. “And what consequences did they face? There were none. The industry abuses animals within communities and there is zero oversight on farms. The industry regulates itself and that should concern anyone who cares about transparency and accountability.”

The BC SPCA investigated the original claims of animal abuse submitted by Soranno and her group, but in May 2019 they said there was insufficient evidence to support the recommendation of charges to Crown counsel. The case was reopened in August 2019, but the same decision was made to not pursue charges against Excelsior. That decision was one of the reasons why a similar gathering of protestors occurred at the Abbotsford SPCA at 9 a.m. on Thursday.

A press release stated that protestors believe the BC SPCA has not held Excelsior Hog Farm accountable for their proven criminal animal cruelty and the charges against the activists are partially due to the SPCA turning in whistleblowers, despite assurances of anonymity and with no warrant from the police.

The group also believes that the BC SPCA is working with the police and the factory farms, rather than on behalf of the animals. An online petition calling for charges against Excelsior has gathered more than 30,000 signatures, but the BCSPCA has closed the file.

RELATED: BC SPCA says no charges against Abbotsford hog farm

“The system is failing animals unimaginably,” Soranno said. “Excelsior Hog Farm has clearly committed several instances of animal cruelty, but they are still regarded as one of the best in the industry. And if such immense suffering is the norm on the so-called best hog farms, then we encourage the public to consider what happens at the worst of them.”

Speaking outside of the BC SPCA, Sasano said this case is an important one for both people and animals.

“We’re going to be using this case to bring even more and more attention to the injustice that happened at Excelsior and what happens to animals around the world,” he said. “When this is done, we will have Excelsior’s feet over the fire; we’re going to have the BC SPCA’s feet over the fire because they’re not doing their jobs. We’re going to have the entire system and the Abbotsford PD exposed for their part in protecting animal abusers and going after us – the people trying to protect the animals.”

RELATED: VIDEO: One person arrested at protest at Abbotsford pig farm

Last year, dozens of activists stormed the Harris Road hog farm to protest what they said was the inhumane treatment of animals at the site. More than 60 people rushed into Excelsior Hog Farm in late April 2019, with dozens sitting “in solidarity” with pigs.

The protest took less place than a month after PETA released hidden-camera footage which it said showed horrific conditions of animals at the farm.

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