Vegan who gave water to pigs headed for slaughter finds it 'unfathomable' she was charged

A Toronto woman facing mischief charges for giving water to pigs on a truck headed to slaughter used the witness box like a pulpit in court today, with her testimony almost completely centring on her beliefs that everyone should be vegan and an activist.

Animal rights activist says pigs are 'more noble' than humans

Anita Krajnc gives pigs water near a slaughterhouse in Burlington, Ont. Krajnc is on trial charged with criminal mischief charge for her act. (Elli Garlin)

A Toronto woman facing mischief charges for giving water to pigs on a truck headed to slaughter used the witness box like a pulpit in court today, with her testimony almost completely centring on her beliefs that everyone should be vegan and an activist.

Anita Krajnc, 49, appeared in a Burlington, Ont., courtroom as her trial resumed in front of a judge alone for the third day.

The animal rights activist is charged with mischief and faces jail time or a maximum $5,000 fine for providing water through the narrow openings of a metal trailer to the pigs as they were headed to Fearman's Pork Inc. in Burlington on June 22, 2015. 

"I just find it unfathomable that someone would be charged for giving thirsty animals water," she said, while also testifying that she had no idea she could be charged for what she was doing.

"In the three years we've given water to pigs, police have been present, so we took that as an endorsement."

I think it's child abuse to give bacon to children.- Anita Krajnc, animal rights activist

Krajnc is part of the group Toronto Pig Save, which regularly holds vigils outside the pork processing plant. Krajnc has said the pigs were overheated and severely dehydrated.

When the trial was last in session in August, an animal welfare expert testified the animals appeared to be in "severe distress" from the heat inside the trailer — but because she hadn't examined them, she couldn't say for sure.

Outside the courthouse, Krajnc told CBC News that testifying gave her an opportunity to spread her message.

"The pig trial has turned around from being a trial about one woman giving water to pigs to really putting animal agriculture on trial for what it does to animals, what it does to the environment, and what it does to people's health and what it does to our conscience," she said.

'I think they're better than people'

In many ways, Monday's session was less about Krajnc's charges specifically, and more about the meat industry and the ethics surrounding it. The defence and the Crown spent roughly 15 minutes talking about the incident itself, while the rest of the day centred on Krajnc's personal beliefs.

The court did not qualify her as an expert in any field, but she was still allowed to present evidence about climate change, the agriculture industry, and even how many pigs were slaughtered inside Fearman's on an annual basis. Krajnc testified she has a PhD in political science and did a case study on climate change.

Krajnc mentioned Leo Tolstoy and Gandhi several times, and referred to Pastor Martin Niemoeller's poem about the way German intellectuals acted following the Nazis' rise to power before the Second World War, comparing that to how humans treat animals.

"I think they're better than people, they're more noble," Krajnc said about pigs.

At one point, she mentioned a 2015 report from the World Health Organization that looked at the evidence about whether processed meat and red meat cause cancer, calling bacon a "carcinogen." The WHO's International Agency for Research on Cancer said that eating processed meat can cause cancer.

"If you wouldn't give a cigarette to a child, why would you give bacon to a child?" Krajnc testified. "I think it's child abuse to give bacon to children."

Squeals disturb some in court

On Monday, the defence showed several videos the group has shot during its vigils, showing pigs squealing and climbing on each other in tight confines.

The lawyers also showed videos shot from inside slaughterhouses, showing pigs being gassed, prodded with electrodes and loaded unconscious on conveyor belts on the way to slaughter.

Several people inside the courtroom covered their ears and eyes when faced with the sounds of the pigs squealing. Some people wiped away tears.

Jeffrey Veldjesgraaf, the truck's driver, testified in August that it wasn't unusual for Krajnc and other animal rights activists to offer water to the pigs, and said Fearman's Pork Inc. has never turned away the animals he hauls there because of it. 

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

During cross-examination, Veldjesgraaf said the animals are given water before and after they're loaded onto the trucks, but not during transit.

Court also watched video of the 2015 incident, in which Krajnc is seen yelling to the truck driver, "Have some compassion, have some compassion!"

Krajnc testified Monday that she offered the driver water after she had given water to the pigs, but he refused.

Animal rights activists planned to hold a demonstration at a Vancouver courthouse today calling on the courts to drop Krajnc's charges.

"Any sane person can see that allowing pigs to suffer, rather than relieving their suffering, is what should be the crime," said demonstration organizer Meghan Beattie in a statement. "This case is shining a spotlight on the failure of our animal agriculture system to recognize that animals are thinking, feeling individuals, not inanimate property." 

Krajnc's trial is due to continue on Nov. 1.

CBC News reporter Adam Carter reported live from the courtroom Monday. You can read a recap of his live blog here:

On mobile and can't see the live blog? View it here.



Adam Carter


Adam Carter is a Newfoundlander who now calls Toronto home. You can follow him on Twitter @AdamCarterCBC or drop him an email at adam.carter@cbc.ca.

With files from The Canadian Press