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Pig trial: Are pigs smarter than dogs? It doesn't matter, farm groups say

Lawyers for Anita Krajnc, on trial in Burlington, Ont., for giving water to pigs that were en route to a slaughterhouse, have called experts in animal behaviour and veganism. Farm associations say she was tampering with their product.

Krajnc charged with mischief after giving water to pigs on their way to a slaughterhouse in Burlington, Ont.

Toronto resident Anita Krajnc was charged with criminal mischief when she pushed a water bottle into a truck-load of pigs on their way to slaughter in Burlington, Ont. (CBC)

Does it matter that pigs are smarter than dogs, that when they are being slaughtered, their squeals are calls for help?

Members of three farming organizations say the Anita Krajnc pig trial in Ontario Superior Court in Burlington is missing the point.

The farming representatives, who attended the trial Tuesday, say they are frustrated and concerned at how the trial is losing focus on the actual incident that to Krajnc being charged with mischief.

Our concern is the focus is away from what is right.- Paul Bootsma, Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario

Krajnc was charged after she gave water to pigs en route to a Burlington slaughterhouse. Her lawyers have used the trial as a chance to shine a light on veganism and the treatment of animals in factory farming.

They've called experts to discuss issues such as the impact on the human body when we eat meat.

Bruce Kelly from Farm and Food Care says that's not what is at issue in the case. 

"It's essentially a misdemeanour case about product tampering."

Food safety protocols are "kind of like an airport. 'Did you pack that bag?'" he said.

"With heightened security around our food system today, you can't have an intermediate party interfering."

Krajnc's case dates back to June 22, 2015, when she and members of Toronto Pig Save held one of their usual vigils outside Fearman's Pork Inc. in Burlington.

A trailer driven by Jeffrey Veldjesgraaf stopped, and members filmed the pigs apparently panting inside. Krajnc poured liquid from her water bottle through an opening in the metal trailer and into the mouth of a pig.

Veldjesgraaf got out and told her to stop. "They're not humans, you dumb frickin' broad," he said.

"Have some compassion," Krajnc responded.

It's a mischief charge. That's why we're here.- Henry Swierenga, Ontario Federation of Agriculture

Halton police charged her, saying they had no way of knowing it was water in Krajnc's bottle. She faces a maximum of $5,000 and six months in jail.

Over her five days in court so far, lawyers James Silver and Gary Grill have argued that Krajnc was acting in the public good.

They've called experts in animal behaviour, and on Tuesday, called a scientist who says a vegan lifestyle is healthier.

Lori Marino, an American neuroscientist, said pigs are as smart as dogs and as psychologically complex as primates. She watched footage of an Australian slaughterhouse — it was introduced as evidence by Grill and Silver — and said the screams and squeals of the pigs were distress calls.

For Krajnc, the trial is a chance to talk about animal cruelty in agriculture and "the biggest issues on the planet."

"On the surface, it's about me helping some pigs who were thirsty and giving them water, and that's important," she said. "But there's a dual purpose… We're trying to raise awareness about the plight of all animals and the planet and people's health.

"If we harm them, we hurt not only them, but ourselves. That's what this pig trial has brought to the forefront."

Toronto Pig Save volunteers give water to pigs heading to slaughter in Burlington. (Anita Krajnc/Facebook)

It's all "very interesting testimony," said Henry Swierenga, an Ontario Federation of Agriculture representative for Halton, Hamilton-Wentworth and Niagara. But he says it's irrelevant.

"It's mischief," he said. "It's a mischief charge. That's why we're here. To stand up for the farmer" and stand against "the actions perpetrated on his vehicle."

(These are) the biggest issues on the planet.- Anita Krijnc

"Our concern is the focus is away from what is right," said Paul Bootsma, field services manager with the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario and a former pork producer.

As for the slaughterhouse video, "My first thought this morning was why are we talking about something from not only outside of the province, but outside the country?"

Veterinarian Armaiti May uses a screen shot from this Toronto Pig Save video to illustrate her point in court that the pigs appeared to be breathing as fast as 180 breaths per minute.

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