Jury Deliberations Began Friday in the Excelsior Hog Farm Animal Rights Trial

Abbotsford, B.C., Canada – UPDATE: The jury reached a verdict Saturday afternoon, finding Amy Soranno and Nick Schafer each guilty on two counts, and acquitting Roy Sasano.

On her Instagram, Soranno spoke to her followers about how she felt after hearing the news: “The legal repercussions to us, no matter what they could be, even if it’s the max sentence, that would pale in comparison to what farmed animals endure, and what the pigs inside Excelsior Hog Farm endure.”

She also reiterated demands that she and fellow B.C. animal rights activists assert: “We are calling on B.C.’s Ministry of Agriculture to implement mandatory CCTV cameras inside all farms and slaughterhouses, and to change animal law enforcement from the BCSPCA, which is a private charity, to a more accountable and transparent government agency.”

Over the last couple weeks, three animal rights activists—Amy Soranno, Roy Sasano and Nick Schafer—stood trial over an April 2019 non-violent direct action meant to shed light on the treatment of the pigs and piglets inside the Excelsior Hog Farm. The Crown and the defense both rested their cases on Wednesday, and closing arguments were presented on Thursday.

Also on Wednesday, presiding BC Supreme Court Justice Frits Verhoeven acquitted the activists on all but five of their charges, so they still face a total of five indictable offenses of Break and Enter and Criminal Mischief.

During the farm action, approximately 50 activists out of the 200-person rally got inside a farm building where they witnessed deceased pigs in a dumpster, pigs laying on the ground unable to get up because of injuries, and “row upon row of pregnant pigs crammed inside metal crates the size of their own bodies, unable to even turn around or move for months on end.”

The seven-hour occupation ended with an agreement that the activists would leave if some of their demands were met—mainstream media getting authorization to enter the farm and take footage and veterinarians checking on the welfare of the animals.

During the first week of the trial on June 29, Justice Verhoeven ruled that the defense was barred from arguing that Excelsior had engaged in unlawful animal abuse. Justice Verhoeven also forbid them from showing the jury any video footage of animal cruelty at Excelsior.

Amy Soranno’s lawyer, Leo Salloum, objected to the ruling: “Not having the ability to play that video cuts the legs out from under several of the defenses that we had been planning to raise.”

The next day, the defense lawyers discovered that the Crown had failed in its obligation to disclose large volumes of additional evidence, some of which seemed beneficial to the defense’s arguments. Because the build-up to the trial took nearly three years, the defense should have had years to review that evidence, however Justice Verhoeven gave them the weekend.

While the Crown prosecutors argued that the owners of Excelsior Hog Farm, the Binnendyk family, were the victims, on cross-examination, farm co-owner Calvin Binnendyk stated that he was unaware of the laws pertaining to the treatment of farmed animals. Binnendyk was unable to say with any certainty whether or not he had abused animals under his care because he had never read or learned about the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (PCAA).

“The fact that we still face prison time while Excelsior Hog Farm is free to continue its abusive practices is a mockery of justice. This case further illustrates the clear bias against animals and activists by the animal agriculture industry, BCSPCA, and police.“

Amy Soranno

The jury began deliberations Friday morning, and will remain sequestered until they reach a verdict.

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