Let’s do more to pro­tect an­i­mals

THE SPEC­TA­TOR’S VIEW

The Hamilton Spectator - - OPINION - John Roe

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.

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