Animal Advocates Appeal Jail Sentences for Exposing Animal Cruelty 

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Amy Soranno and Nick Schafer are appealing their 30-day jail sentences today at the BC Court of Appeal. The appeal comes after a disappointing decision earlier this year from the BC Court of Appeal, which upheld the convictions against the two for their part in a peaceful sit-in protest in 2019 at Excelsior Hog Farm—a factory pig farm in Abbotsford, BC that has been repeatedly exposed for horrific animal abuse and extreme neglect. 

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This is the first known jail sentence in Canada for a non-violent act of civil disobedience. Notably, Ms. Soranno and Mr. Schafer’s sentence for challenging animal cruelty is more severe than almost any recent sentence for a farm convicted of animal cruelty. Shockingly, Excelsior and its owners have never been charged by authorities, despite undercover video showing multiple documented instances of animal suffering. 

In the appeal, Ms. Soranno challenges the trial judge’s refusal to let her make a statement in court during the sentencing stage, despite a previous ruling from the Supreme Court of Canada that the motives behind someone’s actions should be considered during sentencing. During the trial, Ms. Soranno and Mr. Schafer were also blocked from showing the jury any evidence of animal cruelty at Excelsior.

Excelsior: Exposed Repeatedly for Abuse

There are no animal welfare regulations on farms, and no regular inspections by authorities. The public is largely left in the dark about conditions on farms, and most could not conceive of the horrific footage that prompted the non-violent sit-in at Excelsior Hog Farm. The video shows crowded pens full of pigs suffering from hernias, bloody lacerations, and golf-ball-sized growths. Some pigs, unable to walk, languished and slowly died on the filthy concrete floor. Dead pigs were found rotting in pens with live pigs. 

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Last November, Animal Justice released new secretly-recorded footage showing that conditions at Excelsior had not improved. Seen in the video are dead, rotting, and partially eaten pigs, including piglets. Pigs were kicked in the stomach and face, jabbed with a metal rod, and hit with plastic boards. Hernias, bloody scratches, open wounds, and leg injuries were found throughout the farm. Pen walls and water troughs were smeared with feces and blood.

Jailing those who expose animal cruelty rather than those who are cruel to animals sets an alarming precedent, and shows that authorities do not take animal cruelty seriously on farms. With no national regulations or government oversight on farms, whistleblowers and hidden camera exposés are some of the only ways animal abuse is exposed.

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