by Thomas Walkom
The good news for Toronto animal activist Anita Krajnc is that she’s been acquitted of the crime of giving water to a thirsty pig.
The bad news is that the judge hearing her case didn’t accept her crucial argument – that sentient animals such as pigs are more than mere property.
Krajnc, 50, is co-founder of Toronto Pig Save, a group opposed to the use of cows, chickens and pigs as human food. Their tactic is what she calls “bearing witness” – peacefully protesting the transport of live animals to area slaughterhouses.
Sometime the protesters provide water to thirsty pigs jammed together in the trailer of a transport truck.
That’s what Krajnc was doing in June 2015 outside a Burlington slaughterhouse – reaching through the slats of a tractor-trailer to give water to a thirsty pig. But this time she was charged with criminal mischief.
Legally, the case centred on whether Krajnc’s offer of water (which she freely admitted) interfered with an owner’s right to enjoy his property. Her lawyers focused on the property angle arguing that sentient animals are more than mere possessions and that they therefore have some rights of their own.
This is part of a strategy among some activists to argue that animals should be treated as “persons” under the law – that is, that they should enjoy certain rights, including the right to be represented in court.
That’s not as radical as it might seem. Legally, inanimate corporations are treated as persons possessed of rights. Why not live animals?
But this was not an argument that impressed the judge in Krajnc’s case. Justice David Harris said Thursday that he didn’t accept pigs as legal persons. He said he heard no convincing evidence that they are anything but property.
He also chided Krajnc’s defence for comparing her to famous freedom fighters, such as India’s Mahatma Gandhi and South Africa’s Nelson Mandela, suggesting (according to a CBC live blog of the decision) that the motive was to burnish her reputation on social media.
He acquitted Krajnc, he said, simply because he wasn’t satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that her provision of water to a pig had interfered with the owner’s ability to enjoy his property – which in this case meant having it slaughtered.
In a telephone interview later, Krajnc said she found the judge’s insistence that pigs are property disappointing.
“I just think that’s where we need to make progress,” she said.
Krajnc is not the only animal activist in her family. Her sister Susan made headlines a decade ago when she led opposition to the culling of cormorants on Lake Ontario.
But Anita said her real political awakening began in the 1990s when she saw The Animals Film, a documentary on the abuses of the animal industry.
In 2006, while teaching a political studies course on social movement tactics at Kingston’s Queen’s University, she became a vegan. In 2010, while walking her dog in Toronto, she noticed the tractor-trailer loads of hogs being carted to slaughter. The idea of Toronto Pig Save was born.
Her legal troubles are not over. Last fall, she was charged with obstructing police after a truck carrying pigs crashed near the Burlington slaughterhouse, killing 42 of them. Krajnc was not blamed for the crash (the truck’s driver was charged with careless driving). But she was charged after Pig Save protesters at the scene crossed police lines in an effort to convince slaughterhouse workers to release some of the injured hogs to a pig sanctuary.
Until that case comes to trial, Krajnc is back at work on the animal vigils, one per week for each of pigs, cows and chickens.
One of the unintended consequences of levelling criminal charges against her is that the Pig Save movement has taken off. Last year, there were 50 such groups in North America. Now, she said, there are 150.
“The idea of bearing witness is so simple,” she said. “But when you see the live animal it makes a real
Thomas Walkom appears Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Copyright 2017-Torstar Syndication Services