A group of activists with the Okanagan Animal Save group come together around a Rocana Meats delivery truck for a photo during a protest at the company’s facility in Salmon Arm. (Facebook/Okanagan Animal Save)

Activists protest at Shuswap pig abattoir

Incident at meat processing plant under investigation by Salmon Arm RCMP

Police are investigating another protest at Rocana Meats processing plant in Salmon Arm’s industrial park.

“At approximately 8:20 p.m. on Dec. 4, Salmon Arm RCMP officers attended to a local meat processing site after approximately 15 protesters stopped a truck that was arriving with cargo for processing,” says Salmon Arm RCMP Staff Sgt. Scott West in a Dec. 10 press release. “Police were called to investigate an alleged assault after the operator of the site removed protesters from in front of the vehicle.”

Peaceful vigil or harassment?

Members of an animal rights activists group, Okanagan Animal Save, say their protest was a peaceful presence to bear witness to the pigs’ last moments of life before being unloaded from a transport truck.

But Rocana Meats manager Dave DeBoer says members of the group impeded the driver’s progress by standing in front of and climbing on the truck.

In a Dec. 7 email, Okanagan Animal Save vigil organizer Amy Soranno says that unlike other protests that have been held at the meat processing plant, the Dec. 4 vigil was an attempt to be present during the arrival of a truck bringing animals to the plant.

Related: Pork processing

She describes the altercation that ensued between her group and DeBoer as one in which the meat processing plant manager almost hit them with his car, then emerged yelling and swearing at the protesters.

“As this was unfolding the rest of the group was able to safely approach the side of the truck and observed the pigs in the trailer, obtaining video footage and still photos of the six-month-old pigs,” writes Soranno.

But DeBoer views the incident through a different lens.

He says he spotted about 30 protesters gathered in the self-storage located at the corner of Auto Road and 54th Street SE late in the afternoon and called the driver to tell him to remain in Revelstoke for a while in an effort to freeze the group out. He says half the group left before the truck arrived.

“This is probably the sixth or seventh time this has happened; I am not forcing people to eat what I eat,” he said, charging the protesters with making the treatment of the pigs worse than it is and of owning up to using sounds of squealing animals from another facility in one of their videos.

Related: Activists protest pig slaughter outside Salmon Arm slaughterhouse

DeBoer says he met the truck as it came off the Trans-Canada and drove onto 54th ahead of it, passing the protesters who were now lined up on the road.

“As soon as my car passed, they jumped in front of the truck and climbed onto the side of the trailer where the pigs are, blocking my driver’s truck,” he says. “They were hanging off the bumpers and the driver had to slam on the brakes.”

DeBoer admits to getting angry and yelling at protesters to get off the road.

He says he doesn’t mind if people want to protest as long as they stay on the side of the road and don’t interfere with his business.

But in her email to the newspaper, Soranno says, “We don’t feel that asking the truck driver for two minutes is unreasonable or a hindrance to their operations. We just want a peaceful and safe opportunity to say goodbye to the pigs and show them love in their last moments here with us, a sentiment that these animals have never experienced in their short six-month-old lives.”

At this point, both DeBoer and the truck driver called the police, who remained on-site until the pigs were offloaded from the truck.

“This is harassment; you want to protest go for it, but they’re paid protesters,” he charges.

In her email, Soranno indicates the activists will return to Rocana Meats and are hopeful “that the next vigil will see more co-operation from the owner and truck drivers.”

West, meanwhile, says no arrests were made at the site on Dec. 4 and the RCMP investigation of the incident is ongoing.


@SalmonArm
barb.brouwer@saobserver.net

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