For the past few days, a trial unfolding in a sleepy Toronto suburb has drawn international attention. It's not the trial of a celebrity, or a high-profile criminal like a serial killer: it's a mischief trial, for a woman who gave some pigs a drink of water.
Anita Krajnc, a 49-year-old animal rights activist, was arrested last summer for dribbling some water into the mouth of a pig inside a transport truck on its way to slaughter. Krajnc now faces up to $5,000 in fines or even jail time for this mischief charge, which she caught on tape after the driver confronted her:
Krajnc is a founding member of Toronto Pig Save, an animal rights group that holds weekly "vigils" on the side of the road for pigs on their way to slaughter. It isn't the first time they've given pigs water through the slats of transportation trucks, but on this occasion the driver of the truck, Jeffrey Veldjesgraaf, grew alarmed. He tried to stop Krajnc, then phoned his boss, hog farmer Eric Van Boekel, who called the police.
At court this week, Van Boekel testified that he was worried the water could have had contaminants that would have made the 190 pigs—worth about $45,000—sick or unfit for slaughter. He also said he was concerned for activists' safety."One of my biggest fears—and it's not if it's going to happen, it's when it's going to happen—is one of the protesters has their arm in the slat, and the driver pulls away, they'll get [pulled] under the truck," Van Boekel testified.
Despite the potential jail time, Krajnc, her legal team, and her activist colleagues have been using the attention as an opportunity to raise awareness about the treatment of farm animals. Her lawyers have said they plan to ask the judge to don a virtual reality headset to get a first-person (or first-pig) look at what it's like to go through a slaughterhouse, and have dedicated much of the trial asking about the conditions on the pigs' farm and truck.
Activists from Toronto Pig Save and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals have demonstrated and attended court daily, while others have been sharing support on social media.
"Many of us have been working on this issue for years and we definitely believe that this is bringing significant, additional attention and we're very pleased," said Krista Hiddema, the vice president of Mercy for Animals Canada, a nonprofit farm animal rights group. "Quite frankly, Anita should be commended for her act of compassion and love, not threatened with fines and months of cruel incarceration."
In Canada, pigs and chickens can be transported for as long as 36 hours straight without any food or water, while cows can go as long as 52 hours. These regulations are much more relaxed than most developed countries, including the US where animals can only be trucked for a maximum of 28 hours. Canadian reports have shown millions of animals are dead on arrival every year after being transported long distances, and as many as 11 million are too sick or injured when they get to the slaughterhouse to be kept in the food supply.
Canada also has no regulations on the maximum or minimum temperature of livestock transport trucks, or any limit on the number of animals that can be packed in a truck—the laws only stipulate that animals must have enough space to be able to "stand in a natural position." Animal rights groups have been trying to change these regulations for years, but even producers like Maple Leaf Foods have said the rules are outdated.
"Canadians, I hope, are coming to realize that when they pass these trucks, these animals are suffering," Hiddema said. "We genuinely hope that this occasion finally results in the Canadian government doing something."