Let’s do more to protect animals
THE SPECTATOR’S VIEW
Animal rights activist Anita Krajnc won a major victory last week when she was found not guilty of criminal mischief for giving water to thirsty, slaughter-bound pigs.
But her real achievement was drawing international attention to the questionable way animals raised for food are routinely treated in Ontario.
She was right to do this and more people will likely be paying attention because of her actions.
A lot of us have watched a livestock truck rumble down a highway, gazed through its partially open, metal sides and wondered if the pigs or cattle inside were feeling stress, discomfort or pain.
Krajnc made the same observations but did something about it.
On a hot summer day in 2015, the Toronto woman squirted liquid from a water bottle into a transport truck loaded with 190 pigs, moments before it reached its destination — a Burlington abattoir.
Krajnc continued giving the pigs a drink despite the truck driver’s angry objections and was later charged with mischief.
Last Thursday, Justice David Harris ruled Krajnc had committed no crime because she neither harmed the animals nor prevented them from being slaughtered. Nor was there any evidence she had given the pigs anything but water.
To be sure, the judge also found that the pigs had been treated lawfully by their owner and the truck driver. Ontario’s animal protection laws, in other words, had not been violated by the businesses and people Krajnc was protesting against.
However, a streaming video of the incident as well as testimony in court strongly suggested the pigs were struggling with the heat that day. Some pigs were breathing as quickly as 180 breaths a minute and one was foaming at the mouth.
Based on that video, Armaiti May, a veterinarian and animal welfare expert, told the court: “I can say with a fair degree of certainty that in all likelihood they were in severe distress.”
While that’s just one person’s opinion, our laws insist that animals being transported should not be exposed to weather conditions that cause them suffering.
In the wake of this trial, you do not have to be a staunch vegan or a foe of the meat industry to ask whether Ontario has strong enough animal welfare laws or whether they are enforced stringently enough.
Perhaps the trucks used to transport animals need to be improved so the sentient, feeling creatures they are carrying are more comfortable.
Perhaps there should be greater scrutiny of animals being transported to ensure Ontario’s laws are being obeyed.
None of this means farmers have to stop raising livestock for food or consumers must give up eating meat.
Indeed, some of Krajnc’s views may strike the general public as extreme. In court, the judge rejected her defence team’s attempt to compare her with Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela.
But Krajnc and her animal-rights advocacy give us something else to chew on the next time we eat our bacon and eggs.
Our laws should be as concerned about living creatures as they with property.