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Abbotsford hog-farm activists call criminal charges 'a mockery of justice'

The 'Excelsior 4' are in pre-trial facing 21 combined charges of break and enter and criminal mischief in relation to a large protest at Abbotsford’s Excelsior Hog Farm in 2019.

Warning: This story contains graphic details that could be distressing to some readers.

Four animal activists accused of breaking and entering and mischief for what they say was for filming alleged “horrific animal cruelty” at an Abbotsford hog farm began court proceedings March 28.

Amy Soranno, Geoff Regier, Roy Sasano and Nick Schafer are charged with 21 counts in connection with alleged 2019 offences at Excelsior Hog Farm.

On April 28, 2019, the group and other Meat the Victims activists entered the farm and staged a sit-in.

"Dead pigs were found rotting in their pens,” Soranno said. “Live pigs were eating their bodies.”

Video was filmed by the group and released by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).

On Monday morning, protesters gathered outside court in New Westminster, holding photos of bloodied pigs. Sorrano confirmed the pictures were taken inside the farm.

When Sorrano was asked who took the videos and photos, lawyer Joe Killoran stepped in and said that is an issue to be presented to the court.

The group’s website said video “showed crowded pens full of thousands of pigs suffering from hernias, bloody lacerations, and golf ball-sized growths. Some couldn’t even walk, so they languished and slowly died on the filthy concrete floor.”

Other disturbing and graphic video released allegedly shows cruel treatment of animals.

"The fact that we face prison time while Excelsior Hog Farm is free to continue its abusive practices is a mockery of justice," Soranno said. "Our case will continue to shine a light on the criminal animal abuse taking place at Excelsior, and the failure to hold the factory farm accountable.”

A jury will hear the case starting June 27. Current hearings are for Justice Frits Verhoeven alone to determine admissibility of evidence.

Lawyers for the group are expected to argue for the dismissal of some charges based on alleged misconduct by police and the BC SPCA, a statement said.

Lawyers are also seeking records from the police and the hog farm to better understand how key evidence of criminal animal cruelty contained on cards from cameras found on-site allegedly went missing during the investigation.

The group is calling on B.C. Minister of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries Lana Popham to replace the BC SPCA with “a more accountable government agency to enforce against animal cruelty in B.C.”

They also want closed-circuit TV cameras made mandatory at all animal agriculture facilities in the province.

"It is unacceptable and possibly unconstitutional to have laws pertaining to animals, or any other laws, enforced by a charity which is exempt from mechanisms of public accountability and transparency essential to the responsible use of such power," said Jordan Reichert, deputy leader of the Animal Protection Party of Canada, in the statement.

"Let's start by at least making those protecting animals accountable under the law, even if the animals themselves are not yet treated equally under it,” Reichert said.

The case is expected to last four weeks.

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