ABBOTSFORD – BC SPCA is declining to press charges against an Abbotsford hog farm targeted by animal rights activists.
Representatives of the association, which is responsible under the province’s Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act to investigate complaints and enforce laws related to animal welfare, visited the farm in early May and found no grounds for charges.
“We utilized the code of practice for hog farming, and have determined at this point that we will not be proceeding with any charges against Excelsior Hog Farm,” says Shawn Eccles, senior manager, cruelty investigations, with the BC SPCA.
The visit occurred more than a week after People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) provided a video to CTV allegedly documenting instances of inhumane conditions at the farm. An initial visit was pre-empted, Eccles said, by a protest at the farm on
April 28 that saw more than 50 activists invade the farm’s barns and more than 100 gather outside.
“We had made arrangements to attend the farm with appropriate individuals that had training or experience in hog farms and a protest occurred,” explains Eccles. “We assessed what we saw on the date that we were on the farm, and at this point there is no evidence to warrant a charge.”
The activists’ intervention prevented the prompt investigation of the complaint by the proper authorities, and the fact that the person who shot the video never stepped forward to back up the evidence left investigators with no grounds for pursuing the matter.
“We can’t attest to the veracity of the video,” says Eccles. “As a policing agency, [we] have to rely on evidence … that I have either through eyewitness testimony – which I don’t have – or physical evidence.”
However, some members of industry are criticizing BC SPCA’s handling of the matter, saying it didn’t act fast enough, or clear the air when it finally determined there were no grounds for pursuing charges.
The video followed a break-and-enter at Excelsior in late March during which surveillance cameras were installed. Those cameras were removed, and Abbotsford police are investigating.
The force’s communications officer, Sergeant Judy Bird, said the two incidents are subject to separate investigations. Bird said evidence is being collected to see if there are grounds for prosecuting those responsible for either incident.
The latest incident saw police identify and secure contact information for 50 protestors. Just one arrest was made, but the individual, Amy Soranno of Okanagan Animal Save, was released pending a court appearance.
“Our investigation continues, and we will be looking at charges for the protestors with respect to break-and-enter and mischief,” Bird said of the protest.
While farm invasions are rare in Canada, Bird said the protest is a reminder that such incidents are possible. She encourages farmers to report suspicious activity on their properties to police.
“I don’t recall us having anything like this in Abbotsford before,” she said. “This puts an extra reminder on us that this has the potential to happen again in the Fraser Valley.”
CANADIAN PRESS PHOTO