They arrived by the busload early on Sunday morning, clad in black shirts, singing songs and holding signs.
About 60 activists from the protest group Meat The Victims entered Abbotsford’s Excelsior Hog Farm, while more than 100 others held a protest on Harris Road.
Excelsior became the target for the group after footage was released by PETA earlier this month, which activists say depicts horrific conditions of the pigs being raised at the location.
The footage, which activists say was captured through hidden cameras earlier this year, has triggered an ongoing SPCA investigation.
The groups arrived in school buses at the farm just before 6:30 a.m., with police responding shortly after 7 a.m.
Police then closed Harris Road at both ways connecting the farm, as police dealt with protesters inside who refused to leave.
Media on hand were told at approximately 8:30 a.m. that they would be allowed to tour the facility, but that then became a negotiation with police and veterinary staff on hand. The vet staff stated that the animals were stressed out and only a small number of media could enter.
Select media were allowed to tour the facility at around 11 a.m., with Black Press among those given the chance to tour.
Those inside the farm eventually left later that afternoon, with Kelowna resident Amy Sorrano charged with breaking and entering and mischief. Sorrano identifies herself as an “animal liberation activist” and has a Patreon page intended to promote her activism. Sorrano did not respond to a request for more information from The News.
The others inside were identified and then released by police. Abbotsford Police stated that they are continuing to investigate the incident, with possible additional charges to follow.
Farm owner Ray Binnendyk told media during the tour that it has been a difficult time for his family.
“As a family, this is very hard for us and what we’ve had to deal with in the last number of weeks,” he said. “We really pray that everyone sees the truth about us and that we are good people trying to make a good product and raise animals to the best of our ability.”
Binnendyk added that Sunday was an uncomfortable one for him and his family.
“We feel very invaded,” he said. “Our private property… people just act like it’s all right to walk onto someone’s property.”
He and his brother also expressed concern that protesters may have brought other disease or sickness onto the farm when they entered. That sentiment was echoed by the farm’s veterinarian, Josh Waddington.
“What I hope that the public realizes is that by their actions … this group of people have put the livestock at this farm at serious health risk,” he said.
Waddington said he believes some of the footage that was recorded and distributed was from a special-care section of the farm.
“In almost all production facilities, there is a hospital area where animals are gathered because they have conditions that we would like to see under treatment and observation and, in that case, that’s what was shown,” he said of the PETA video. “Some of those conditions are still here and present, and those animals are under treatment.”
Dan Moskaluk, who was acting as the spokesperson for Meat The Victims, said he and his group want to raise awareness about animal cruelty.
“We are here to stand in solidarity with the animals and the purpose of this action is to expose the realities of what is happening to the victims of the meat industry,” he said. “We believe that people are making choices that are contrary to their values. They would not want to support this industry if they truly knew what was happening.”
A press release from Meat The Victims reiterated many of Moskaluk’s points:
The aim of this action is to expose the reality of what is happening to the victims of the ‘meat’ industry and to challenge the current mindset within our society.
The truth is being hidden from the public and we believe that people are making choices that go against their values. Most people are against animal cruelty & would not want to support this industry if they knew what was truly happening. The public has a right to know.
These industries perpetuate the ‘humane myth’ with labels such as ‘local,’ ‘free range’, ‘grass fed’, ‘organic’, & ‘cage free’ – all terms which are used to deceive and mislead the public into believing that animals are ‘humanely raised & humanely killed.’ We are here to show that this is not the case. We are forcing transparency in an industry that relies on secrecy.
The needless violence inflicted upon these animals needs to stop. This facility is not unique in their horrendous treatment of animals. This is a standard representation of factory farming here in Canada. This action is not about this one facility, or a call for better animal welfare standards, but rather a call to end the inherently violent animal agriculture industry entirely.
Our message is simple: Animals are here with us, not for us.
It’s not clear when results of the SPCA investigation will be released.
Here’s a timeline of the events that transpired leading up to and on the day of the protest:
March 23 – A family member of the property in the 33000 block of Harris Road (Excelsior Hog Farms) notices two cameras inside a barn and one on the outside, and notifies police of their presence. It was later determined that camera had been filming since March 15.
April 23 – PETA releases a video allegedly from the farm depicting disturbing conditions.
6:25 a.m. – A group of 60 protesters exit a school bus outside the farm and illegally enter the property. A bus of other protesters line the road with signs and begin singing songs and chants.
6:45 a.m. – Abbotsford Police arrive on scene. Harris Road is blocked off from both sides connected to the farm shortly thereafter.
8:30 a.m. – Police continue negotiations with protesters inside. The protesters demand that media be allowed to tour and document what is inside.
10:45 a.m. – As negotiations continue, police state only six members of the media can go on the tour because veterinarians at the site are concerned about the health and stress of the animals. CTV is not allowed to enter as per the family’s request. CBC, Global, Canadian Press, Black Press and The Intercept (New York Times) are permitted access.
11:00 a.m. – The reporter from The Intercept is removed from the group going on the tour, as the family states they saw the reporter on the bus with the protesters. The reporter, who did travel as an embedded journalist with the protesters, is escorted back to the street. Police do not allow another reporter to replace her as a sixth member.
11:27 a.m. – Family members, neighbours, friends and other farmers gather in the front yard of the farm to support Excelsior. They write on a whiteboard sign that “We Love Our Farm,” with others signing their name on the whiteboard.
11:48 a.m. – Media complete the farm tour.
Approximately 12:30 p.m. – Protesters leave. One person is arrested
Protesters from the inside also shared much of the experience on social media, flooding the Excelsior Hog Farm’s Facebook page with videos and photos.