When one woman gave a pig a drink on its way to slaughter, she thought she was doing something good. However, the animal’s owner thought differently. As a result, she soon discovered that her actions could land her in jail.
One scorching hot day in 2015, Anita Krajnc was out with her group Toronto Pig Save. The aim of the animal activists is to draw attention to the suffering of animals on their way to and at slaughterhouses. Their emphasis is on the meat industry in downtown Toronto.
As part of its campaign, Toronto Pig Save are active on YouTube. On the site, it posts videos that raise awareness of the reality of the slaughterhouse trade. And, although all the footage they post is evocative, one video from 2015 was more controversial than most.
The footage opens as a truck carrying pigs to slaughter rolls by. The person filming then puts the camera into a small gap in the wagon. This enables viewers to see the conditions the pigs were transported in.
As the camera rolls, Krajnc notices one of the pigs licking his lips. It looks quite distressed, so she asks the person in charge of the transport to give it some water. However, he refuses, shouting back, “Don’t give him anything.”
But this only serves to anger Krajnc, who is keen to help the animal in need. “Jesus said, ‘If they are thirsty, give them water,’” she points out. But, unfortunately, her pleas fall on deaf ears.
“No, you know what? These are not humans, you dumb frickin’ broad,” the driver responds, as the scene becomes more heated. “You know what? Now we’re going to call the cops,” he adds, as Krajnc reaches out to the pigs in the truck.
“Have some compassion,” she protests as she pulls out a water bottle and begins to give the animals a drink. “If this pig is thirsty, they’ll have water.” However, this just angers the man even further.
He tells Krajnc to stop and says he can’t be sure what she’s giving the pigs is even water. “You do that again and I’ll slap it out of your hands,” he warns. But, the animal rights activist continues to pour water through the gaps in the truck.
As she does so, some of the animals appear to climb over one another to get to her. However, others don’t have the energy to move and simply pant away at the back of the wagon. “Sorry babies, we love you,” Krajnc whispers to them, as she contemplates their tragic fate.
And, with that, the short video comes to an abrupt end. However, the end of the footage did not mark the end of the confrontation between Krajnc and the slaughterhouse. That’s because the owner of the pigs decided to file a police complaint about her actions.
They claimed Krajnc had acted out of turn since the pigs were their property. They said it was a possibility that the “water” the animal lover was seen feeding the pigs with could have included something else. As a result, the crown charged her for tampering with another person’s property.
From the start, Krajnc said she was innocent. “I pleaded not guilty, testifying that what I did was not only rightful and necessary, but also a duty that we all share. When you see a creature suffering, you have an obligation to come close and try to help,” she said in a statement.
But, when the case went to trial in 2016, prosecutor Harutyun Apel claimed that, in the view of the driver, Krajnc had given the pigs an “unknown substance.” This, he said, could have prevented the pigs from going to slaughter.
However, the defense argued that it was obvious Krajnc had given the pigs water, denying it was an “unknown liquid,” as police had accused. And they also noted the pigs were eventually slaughtered. So, Krajnc had no effect on their “lawful use.”
They also said that, although pigs are not persons in the law, they still suffer likes humans. “Anita is acting in the public good,” Krajnc’s lawyer Gary Grill told the court. “It is clear that the public has an interest in fostering the good actions of others.”
There was a lot riding on the trail. If found guilty, the court could have fined Krajnc $5,000. And, for giving the pigs a drink, she could have even faced jail time. As a result, the case garnered a great deal of media interest.
So, when both sides gave their closing arguments to the jury in 2017, they did so to a packed-out courtroom. Numerous animal rights activists turned out to support Krajnc. Furthermore, musician and famous vegan Moby proposed to pay the fine if the judge found Krajnc guilty.
However, in the end, Justice David Harris dismissed the charges against Krajnc. He noted that the pigs had made it to their intended destination despite her intervention. “Did Ms Krajnc obstruct, interrupt or interfere with the lawful use, enjoyment or operation of the property? My simple answer to this question is: No. She did not,” he said.
The decision was welcomed by those at the courtroom as well as Krajnc herself, who vowed to continue with her activism. “This is the fight of my life,” she told The Star in March 2017. “I’m going to spend the rest of my life fighting for the rights of animals until they’re considered equal just like the rest of us.”