Virginia judge throws out water for pigs charge inspired by Anita Krajnc case

Not all charges for giving water to pigs result in multi-day trials. One in Virginia, inspired by the Anita Krajnc case, was thrown out of court this week.

A Virginia case similar to Anita Krajnc's was dismissed on first appearance this week

Ciara Birley faced an impeding traffic charge related to giving water to pigs outside a slaughterhouse. She was inspired by Anita Krajnc, a Toronto woman facing mischief charges in Burlington court for a similar action. Birley's judge dismissed her case. (Smithfield Pig Save)

Not all charges for giving water to pigs result in multi-day trials. One in Virginia, inspired by the Anita Krajnc case, was thrown out of court this week. 

Any person would say, 'Why would we waste time on this?'- Ciara Birley

Activist Ciara Birley, a member of Virginia's Smithfield Pig Save, was charged in relation to doing the same thing as Anita Krajnc — giving water to pigs as part of a vigil near a slaughterhouse.

But while Krajnc's trial involves calling numerous experts in Burlington, Ont., criminal court, and won't wrap up until March, a judge dismissed Birley's case on first appearance.

Birley, 22, is a member of one of dozens of groups in the Krajnc-inspired "save movement."

Like many others, Smithfield Pig Save "bears witness" outside slaughterhouses. That includes pouring water for pigs to drink through narrow trailer openings.

In October, Birley approached a truck outside Smithfield Foods. Police handcuffed her, the group's video shows. She was charged with impeding traffic.

"I said, 'Do you arrest people often for giving water to dying creatures in need?'" Birley recalled.

Like Kranjc, Birley pled not guilty in Isle of Wight district court Tuesday. She's OK with the dismissal. It makes sense, she said.

"Any person would say, 'Why would we waste time on this?'"

Not so in Krajnc's case. Video shows Krajnc was giving pigs water on June 22, 2015 when the truck driver confronted her. Halton police charged her with mischief, and the case went to trial.

The Crown argues that neither police nor the driver knew for sure what was in Krajnc's water bottle, and she could have been tampering with the load. (The pigs were slaughtered anyway.) Krajnc pleaded not guilty, and faces a maximum fine of $5,000 and jail time.

Ciara Birley and her supporters gathered outside the Isle of Wight district court this week. (Smithfield Pig Save)

The Crown has called two witnesses. Krajnc and her lawyers, meanwhile, have used the trial as an chance to shine a light on factory farming. They've have called experts on livestock and climate change, animal behaviour and the health impacts of a vegan diet. They have also introduced virtual reality video of a slaughterhouse as evidence.

'Really mind blowing'

Farming groups say this is a distraction, and Krajnc tampered with someone's property and livelihood.

As for Virginia, Birley said Smithfield Pig Save has no plans to stop.

Krajnc's trial "is really mind blowing," Birley said. "But at the same time, it's a movement that's needed."

Krajnc also faces additional charges after a transport truck crash near Fearman's Pork Inc. in October. Police charged her with obstructing police and breach of recognizance.

The driver in the crash, which killed 42 pigs, has been charged with careless driving.

samantha.craggs@cbc.ca | @SamCraggsCBC

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