Written by: Heather Clemenceau
Torontonians in particular are by now very familiar with the “Thirsty Pigs” court case whereby Van Boekel Farms pressed charges against Anita Krajnc. Dr. Krajnc, who is a principal activist behind the peaceful “Save“ vigils (Toronto Pig Save,Toronto Cow Save, Toronto Chicken Save), was charged under the Criminal Code with mischief under $5,000 for providing water to pigs in a truck en route to their slaughter at Fearman’s pig slaughterhouse in Burlington, Ontario.
On a hot day in June, a Van Boekel Hog Farms trailer full of pigs was stopped at an intersection. Krajnc and other activists gave water to them in squirt bottles, an action that the court disclosure describes as: “spraying an unknown liquid into the trailer where the hogs were situated.” The concern is that, even though there seems to be no question that water was the liquid given to the pigs, the action is potentially “tampering with the food supply,” although not in the same way many farmers themselves tamper with the food supply by keeping animals in filthy confined pens during lives which are nasty, brutish, and short.
“In-transit loss” is a term used to describe pigs that die after leaving the farm but before being killed at the abattoir
Big Meat certainly does not want anyone exposing the fact that the pigs often arrive at the slaughterhouse panting and foaming at the mouth (pigs cannot sweat). One might say that the charging of Anita Krajnc has backfired since it generated phenomenal support at the courthouse, in the media, and via petitions that have now been signed by more than 100,000 people. More people have been touched by the suffering of pigs and will consider a plant-based diet. Additionally, it sent people (like me) on little internet fact-finding missions that revealed that Van Boekel’s own farm operations were hardly above reproach. Van Boekel Hogs Farms Inc. of Woodstock, Van Boekel Holdings Inc. and Eric Van Boekel were originally fined a total of $345,000 for a manure spill in the spring of 2007. Van Boekel must have felt as though he was bleeding-out himself when he was hit with an additional 25% victim surcharge that elevated the total to $431,250. He also faced a possible 30 days in jail. He was convicted of breaking three different acts – the Ontario Water Resources Act, the Environmental Protection Act and the Nutrient Management Act – and was sentenced in Woodstock. Van Boekel (who claimed he was the victim of a “witch hunt”) immediately appealed the decision and was granted a new trial, where he was found not guilty of charges under the Environmental Protection Act and Nutrient Management Act, but pled guilty to offences under the Ontario Water Resources Act.
There’s really no shortage of video evidence compiled by Toronto Pig Save showing that in summer the pigs are often desperately overheated – all farm animals can and do suffer from heat stress – signs are panting, increased salivation, drooling or foaming, increased respiration or laboured breathing, lethargy, or even unconsciousness. Even when outside temperatures are not extreme, temperatures inside a trailer can rise dramatically if it is slowed by construction, stuck in traffic or otherwise forced to sit stationary, such as during unloading or at border crossings.
Consider also that:
- The Codes of Practice for the Care and Handling of Pigs (the absolute bare minimum standard) recommends travelling in off-hours and providing protection for pigs in the trailer, including watering and misting.
- The group Canadians For the Ethical Treatment of Farm Animals says: “To minimize risks of heat stress, farm animals should only be transported during the cooler hours of the day. Space per animal inside transport trucks should be increased by reducing stocking densities to ensure proper air flow between animals and, in the case of pigs, to allow them to lie down. Trucks should be tarped and well ventilated. Water should be provided regularly on long journeys.”
- Canadian transport regulations, the Health of Animals Act, Part XII, Sections 143, (1)(d) and (e) state that “No person shall transport or cause to be transported any animal in a railway car, motor vehicle, aircraft, vessel, crate or container if injury or undue suffering is likely to be caused to the animal by reason of undue exposure to the weather or inadequate ventilation.”
- An observational study has shown that, not surprisingly, the number of in-transit pig losses was greater at higher internal trailer temperatures, in some cases being as high as 12.5% of the total number of pigs transported.
Photos below by L. Jorgensen and Twyla Francois. The pig with the leg trapped in the trailer was eventually helped by activists at a Fearman’s Pig slaughterhouse protest. We wonder how long the pig travelled like this and why no one exercised greater care in loading and inspecting the trailer. The dead pigs on the grass were photographed in Texas, delivered to that state by a Manitoba hauler who evidently did not have the proper paperwork, and so claimed he could not unseal the trailer. The pigs were left on board in the sweltering heat for days.
We are gradually moving to a police state that demands criminal charges for inconsequential matters. It strikes me as odd that a court can convict someone of “spraying an unknown liquid” when it is known or should be known by now that the liquid was water and that this was a prosocial act to relieve thirst and heatstroke. I’m sure that this alleged concern by Van Boekel and Fearman’s did not deter them from slaughtering this trailer of pigs (or any other load to whom water was provided in the past).
Call to Action – Please sign the petitions
Care2.com (This petition has surpassed 100,000 signatures!)
The Petition Site (also over 100,000 signatures!)