Activists enter Abbotsford pig farm after 'troubling' footage emerges
Dozens of activists peacefully demonstrated inside and outside Excelsior Hog Farm
Dozens of activists entered a pig farm in Abbotsford, B.C., Sunday morning, days after "troubling" footage showing conditions inside the farm sparked an SPCA investigation.
The video in question, released by PETA, appears to show female pigs and their piglets living in confined gestation crates, along with the bodies of some deceased pigs in varying degrees of decomposition at the Excelsior Hog Farm.
The group said in a written statement that 65 activists peacefully entered the farm at 6 a.m. Sunday morning. Another 135 activists gathered outside.
Several hours later, the activists inside were escorted out by police.
Abbotsford police confirmed that one person was arrested and is facing recommended charges for break and enter and mischief. Fifty protesters were identified by police.
'Meat the Victims'
The statement from the group said it is part of an internationally recognized movement called "Meat the Victims."
"We are speaking out against the cruelty of the animal agriculture industry, and to stand in solidarity for the animals," the group said in the statement.
Protester Susan Rowbottom, 28, was among those led out of the barn while her eight-year-old son participated in the protest outside.
"I am proud to be part of this team. I am proud to be with all my fellow vegans," she said. "We just want to open the public's eyes so they can see and make an informed decision about where their food comes from."
Ray Binnendyk, one of the brothers who operates Excelsior, said the PETA video was shot in secret by someone trespassing at night and he believes some of the images were staged.
"Some of those pictures could not have even been from our farm. We are not sure. I find it's very hard when someone puts out information that's incorrect about how we do things here as a family farm," he said.
"It's very disturbing to see what traction this gets in the media for people that are implicating us as criminals."
Inside Excelsior Hog Farm. <a href="https://twitter.com/cbcnewsbc?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@cbcnewsbc</a> has been allowed entry for a tour. <a href="https://t.co/bqF1wN06Hj">pic.twitter.com/bqF1wN06Hj</a>—@jphballard
His brother Jeff Binnendyk said the farm is "clean" and if they did not take proper care of every pig, it would not still be operating.
"We're more scared about the safety of our pigs and about what kind of diseases (protesters are) bringing in or, after all of this is done, what's going to happen to our herd," he said.
Rowbottom said activists inside the barn were wearing biohazard suits with foot coverings and gloves and they did not touch any of the animals.
Ray Binnendyk said the B.C. Society for the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals was looking into the farm.
The brothers raise the animals to the best of their ability and follow industry guidelines that require veterinarians to visit every few months, he added.
"It's a very hard industry and it's fun," he said. "We love what we do and we're very, very saddened by the fact that we are implicated as bad people when we are not."
The brothers were joined by dozens of people who arrived on the farm property to support them on Sunday.
Dr. Josh Waddington, a veterinarian who said he visits Excelsior every three months, said the PETA video was meant to show the farm in the "worst light" and he is proud of the care the animals receive there.
After watching the video, he said he spoke with the operators about removing some animals from their pens sooner, but he added that "those things happen."
"This farm is very well recognized in their ability and their level of care and attention to welfare," Waddington said. "They have been industry leaders."
Friends and neighbouring farmers are on site to support the Hog Farm. <a href="https://twitter.com/cbcnewsbc?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@cbcnewsbc</a> <a href="https://t.co/wtSMdwWgXk">pic.twitter.com/wtSMdwWgXk</a>—@jphballard
The B.C. SPCA said many of the pigs appear to be suffering from a number of health issues including large hernias, respiratory distress and limb lameness, as well as cleanliness issues.
Chad Goertzen of the B.C. Pork Producers Association said in a statement that the protest put the animals at risk, and threatened the livelihood of hard-working farm families.
With files from Joel Ballard and the Canadian Press.