WARNING: This article contains footage and details which may be disturbing to some. Viewer discretion is strongly advised.
Four activists charged in the occupation of a hog farm in BC’s Fraser Valley three years ago are getting ready for trial this summer and a GoFundMe has been launched to help them with their legal fees.
The pre-trial for the “Excelsior 4” started last week and is slated to run until April 8th, with trial set to begin in June at Abbotsford Supreme Court.
According to the fundraising page, Amy Soranno, Nick Schafer, Roy Sasano, and Geoff Regier are facing a combined 21 charges, including Break and Enter and Mischief, and they could face years in jail if convicted.
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In April 2019, around 200 of activists with Meat The Victims held an occupation at the Excelsior Hog farm in Abbotsford. A group sat inside of the farm with the animals for hours and recorded footage on their phones.
In a video a little more six minutes long posted on the GoFundme (posted below), Soranno said in a clip the group sat with the pregnant pigs for around seven hours and, “what we saw inside that farm was really really horrific. There was blood, and wounds, and psychological and physical torment and suffering absolutely everywhere we looked.”
That same day, the farm allowed media inside to capture camera footage, which ended up making national headlines.
A video released by PETA, allegedly shot inside the Excelsior Hog Farm, showed pigs struggling to survive, animals with infections, crammed in cages and a decomposing pig corpse.
In an email to Daily Hive, BC SPCA spokesperson Lorie Chortyk said a complaint about the Excelsior Hog Farm was received and they followed up on the investigation.
When the enforcement agency attended the property, Chortyk said there was no sign of code violations that were in the video from the BC SPCA inspections, adding the video that was provided was obtained illegally and therefore would not be admissible in court.
Chortyk said the case would not move forward because there was no admissible evidence to present to Crown counsel.
“If this criminal case is won,” the GoFundMe reads, “this could lead to new ground-breaking laws set in place for exploited ‘farmed’ animals here in Canada, and could potentially protect the general public from legal punishment when reporting animal cruelty on private property.”
According to the fundraiser, the activists are calling on BC’s Ministry of Agriculture to implement mandatory CCTV cameras inside all animal farms and slaughterhouses.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Food said in a statement to Daily Hive that it has been engaged in dialogue with the BC SPCA, BC Agriculture Council and specific organizations to “support the development of an inspection system that is fair, and that all parties can understand and support.”
It also said the province adopted the National Farm Animal Care Council Codes of Practice “as reasonable and generally accepted management practices to strengthen animal welfare in BC,” and continues to monitor potential issues to ensure animal welfare policies are in place.
The fundraiser was first launched in September 2019, but it notes the “exceptional length and complexity of this trial” was unexpected, even with lawyers representing them at reduced rates, the fundraising goal needed to be increased to $300,000.
As of Monday afternoon, they have raised more than $63,600.
It said the funds will be going toward legal support for the four, expert witnesses, expenses, taxes and disbursements.
The group of activists have also created t-shirts for sale, with proceeds meant to help with legal fees, the tops have the words “Liberate Animals, Decriminalize Activists” with the defendants gathered around a pig.