Animal activists from Kelowna are not deterred after the leaders of a protest at an Abbotsford hog farm recently received criminal convictions.
Amy Soranno and Nick Schafer have been sentenced to 30 days in jail and one year of probation for break and enter and mischief, after organizing a protest at the Excelsior hog farm on April 28, 2019. Soranno and Schafer of Kelowna are appealing their convictions, have had their sentences deferred and have been granted bail, pending the appeal.
The two acted as the primary organizers of a protest that involved activists from the Meat the Victims group entering the Excelsior hog farm where they recorded video footage of what they allege is animal abuse.
Bill Broome, a member of Meat the Victims said that he will not stop his work as an activist and if anything, is more determined now than ever.
Broome considers Justice Frits Verhoeven’s sentencing to be “biased,” and said that the laws surrounding animal agriculture are “unjust.”
Immediately after the sentencing for Soranno and Schafer on Oct. 12, a group from Meat the Victims staged another protest at the Excelsior hog farm, in solidarity with the accused.
“I was livid,” said Broome about the criminal conviction. He explained that watching his friends receive a sentence of 30 days in prison “lit a fire under [his] butt.”
Broome attended the 2019 protest and said that he was frustrated with the verdict because the group peacefully entered the barn to protest. He said that the activists wanted to bring awareness to the “unjust” suffering that surrounded them while on the hog farm.
Roy Sasano, one of the Excelsior four activists, said that Meat the Victims felt that they had to take action. He said that the group had previously contacted the BC SPCA about claims of animal abuse on the hog farm, but no changes were made.
The BCSPCA explained that for the Excelsior case, an investigation did take place. However, the only evidence of cruelty presented to them was a video that was obtained illegally, which is inadmissible in court.
On Oct. 18, a group of activists associtaed with Meat the Victims staged a protest at a gala for the BCSPCA in Vancouver, calling for the charity to relinquish their rights as the enforcer of animal cruelty laws.
During the trial, the accused were barred from showing video footage that was collected from inside the barn. The ban frustrated members of Meat the Victims and many members have since released the footage on their social media accounts.
Justice Verhoeven ruled that the video could not be shown because the case was not about whether animal abuse had occurred or not. He said that the trial was exclusively focused on determining whether Soranno and Schafer had committed the crimes of break and enter and mischief.
Sasano said that while he is not deterred from protesting, he is focused on re-working the group’s actions in order to protect future activists. He said that the experience has given him insight into how the BC SPCA and police operate.
Sasano said that he will be making efforts to be more careful when creating “civil disobedience” in the future.
Broome said that the trial will not deter him from protesting, “this verdict empowers me… we’re here. We’re not going to go away.”
With files from Vikki Hopes