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Activist Will Not Be Jailed for Giving Water to Pigs

Anita Krajnc was charged with mischief after she offered water to pigs being transported to a slaughterhouse

(titanium 22/Flickr CC)
smithsonian.com

When a Canadian activist gave water to pigs outside a slaughterhouse, she launched a thorny, two-year legal battle that has inflamed passions across the globe. Anita Krajnc was charged with committing mischief, and faced the possibility of jail time. But this week, an Ontario judge dismissed the case against Krajnc, Samantha Craggs reports for CBC News.

Krajnc is the founder of Toronto Pig Save, which seeks to bear “witness to animals in their final moment,” according to the group’s website. In June 2015, Krajnc was protesting on a traffic island near the slaughterhouse, reports the BBC. When a truck carrying pigs from Van Boekel Hog Farms stopped near the island, she approached the vehicle and began to pour water into the animals’ mouths.

The driver confronted Krajnc, leading to a heated exchange that was captured on video. Police were called. Krajnc was charged with causing mischief—in this case, a criminal offense related to obstructing or interfering with the legal operation of property. The activist faced hefty fines and up to six months in jail.

As news of Krajnc’s prosecution spread, people around the world held vigils and rallies in her support, according to Adrian Humphreys of the National Post. When Judge David Harris read his verdict on Thursday, the courtroom was packed. Craggs reports that every seat in the room was taken, and many spectators sat on the floor. Journalists covering the trial crammed into the prisoners’ box.

Harris ruled that because Krajnc had not forced the truck to stop, harmed the animals, or prevented their eventual slaughter, she had not obstructed Van Boekel Hog Farms’ use of its property.

The judge did, however, chastise the defense lawyers on a number of issues. He dismissed their claims that Krajnc’s actions are comparable to those of Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and Susan B. Anthony. And he was particularly rankled by the lawyers’ assertion that Krajnc was like Hungarians who gave water to Jewish Holocaust victims as they were being transported to concentration camps.

"I found the comparison to be offensive," Harris said, "and I will be attaching no weight to it in my decision."

Perhaps most significantly, Harris did not accept the defense’s argument that the pigs should be considered persons—not property—and that Krajnc’s activism was therefore legally justified for the public good. “By law in Canada, pigs are not persons, and they are property,” Harris said, according to Humphreys. “Ms Krajnc and like-minded individuals may believe otherwise and they are fully entitled to that belief. That does not, however, make it so.” 

Still, Harris dismissed the case, and the courtroom burst into cheers. But not everyone is happy about the outcome of the trial. Clarence Nywening, president of the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario, told Craggs that the ruling “puts a big jeopardy” on farmers’ ability to deliver “safe quality” food. 

Even Krajnc expressed mixed feelings about her acquittal. According to Humphreys, she said that she was disappointed the judge had not recognized pigs and other animals as legal persons.  

About Brigit Katz

Brigit Katz is a journalist based in New York City. Her work has appeared in New York magazine, Flavorwire, and Women in the World, a property of The New York Times.

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