Man charged with careless driving in death of Hamilton animal rights activist: police

The charges aren't criminal, and animal rights activists will protest that in front of the Halton police headquarters Tuesday.

Regan Russell died outside a Burlington slaughterhouse on June 19

Regan Russell was a regular attendee at demonstrations at a Burlington slaughterhouse. (Toronto Pig Save)

Police have charged the driver of a transport truck with careless driving after an incident on June 19 where a Hamilton animal rights activist was hit and killed outside a Burlington slaughterhouse.

A 28-year-old from North Perth is charged with careless driving causing death, although "there were no grounds to indicate that this was an intentional act, or that a criminal offence has been committed," Halton Regional Police Service said in a media release.

The person is charged under the Highway Traffic Act, and police didn't release his name.

The charges stem from the death of Regan Russell, 65, an animal rights activist who was part of a Toronto Pig Save group giving water to pigs crammed into trailers heading into the plant. That's what she was doing the morning of June 19, when she was hit and killed by the truck. 

The collision reconstruction unit interviewed witnesses, analyzed physical evidence and watched video footage of the incident, police say. It happened on Harvester Road outside Fearman's Pork Inc., where Toronto Pig Save activists regularly "bear witness" and give water to pigs who are in trucks heading into the plant.

Russell's family say the charge is too light, and it makes the pain worse. Supporters from Toronto Pig Save and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) will rally in front of the Halton police station in Oakville at 10 a.m. Tuesday to protest the lack of criminal charges.

"Losing Regan has been a terrible experience, and the lax charge in response to her death has only made that pain deeper," said stepson Josh Powell in a statement.

"Grief is now compounded by anger, frustration, and confusion. We will be taking the time we need to reflect on this information. Our family is committed to revealing the truth in Regan's death, and will be pursuing all avenues before us that work to that end."

Anita Krajnc, co-founder of Animal Save Movement, said she also wants the full video of the incident released. 

"These charges are feeble and do not amount to justice for Regan," she said.

"Enough is enough. How many more lives will be lost at the hands of Sofina and Fearmans before they agree to a safety policy?"

Sofina Foods said on Friday that it's been trying to reach a "formal protocol" for the protesters, but so far, that hasn't happened.

"In January 2018, Sofina Foods initiated a dialogue around safety and subsequently engaged in multiple attempts, mediated by the Halton police, to reach a formal protest protocol with all parties that ensures the safety of protestors, transport and livestock," Sofina spokesperson Daniele Dufour said in an email.

"We are continuing our efforts to reach a formal protocol to govern protests."

Russell's family is also calling for a coroner's inquest. 


Samantha Craggs is journalist based in Windsor, Ont. She is executive producer of CBC Windsor and previously worked as a reporter and producer in Hamilton, specializing in politics and city hall. Follow her on Twitter at @SamCraggsCBC, or email her at samantha.craggs@cbc.ca