A Canadian animal rights activist could face up to 10 years in prison for giving water to pigs heading to the slaughter on a scorching summer day.
Toronto resident Anita Krajnc, 48, was charged with criminal mischief after clashing with the driver of a tractor-trailer carrying pigs to an Ontario pork processing plant in June. Krajnc and a fellow protester tried to give the pigs water as the vehicle was stopped at a traffic light on the way to the Fearmans Pork processing facility, about 45 miles south-west of Toronto.
A video of the incident shows the driver, identified in court documents as Jeffery Veldjesgraaf, climbing from the vehicle to confront Krajnc. “Jesus said, ‘If they are thirsty, give them water,’” she tells him. Veldjesgraaf responds: “You know what? These are not humans, you dumb frickin’ broad.”
He threatens to call the police and then asks: “What you got in that water?” When she replies that it is just water, he says: “How do I know?”
Ontario hog farmer Eric Van Boekel, who owned the pigs, filed a police complaint the next day.
After a pre-trial hearing on Monday, Krajnc told the Guardian: “It’s an outrage. It’s insane to charge somebody with criminal mischief for doing that.”
Krajnc, who founded Toronto Pig Save – a group whose mission is “to bear witness of suffering of animals in transport and at slaughterhouses” – called her group’s activities “small acts of charity”.
The pigs’ owner, Van Boekel, said his pigs are treated ethically and in accordance with all standards and regulations. He told the Guardian he was concerned for both the safety of his product and that of the animal rights protesters, who sometimes crowd near the large transport vehicles when they are stopped in traffic.
“We don’t have a fight with the protesters per se,” he said. “It’s a free country. Their views – we don’t agree – but they have a right to their opinion as we do ours. If they’d like to protest in a safe and reasonable manner, they’re afforded those rights.”
Several online petitions have sprung up in Krajnc’s defence. By Monday afternoon, one – entitled Compassion Isn’t a Crime – had gathered more than 125,500 signatures, while another, calling on the Ontario court of justice to drop charges against her, had more than 24,600 signatures.
Krajnc’s next pretrial date is 15 December. The earliest her case is expected in court is next August.