PIG TRIAL VERDICT: PIGS LOSE, PETA WINS
Guest Essay by Jeff Perz
For Part 1 of this essay, go here.
Anita Krajnc is co-founder of the group Toronto Pig Save, she gave water to thirsty pigs on their way to slaughter, was tried for criminal mischief and was acquitted on May 4, 2017.
If you are serious about understanding why the Pig Trial single issue campaign harmed pigs, it is essential to read the actual legal judgement, here.
Anita Krajnc’s lawyers argued for five claims:
1. Under the law, pigs are not property; they are legal persons;
2. The pigs were exploited unlawfully;
3. Anita Krajnc did not obstruct, interrupt or interfere with the lawful use, enjoyment or operation of the pigs-as-property;
4. If Anita Krajnc did obstruct the lawful use of pigs as property, she did not do so wilfully; and
5. If Anita Krajnc was obstructive, etc., she had legal justification or excuse, or a legally sanctioned moral justification – “colour of right.”
Although the lawyers argued all five points, they only had to convince the judge that one of the above claims is true, in order for Ms. Krajnc to be acquitted. The judge completely rejected the arguments relating to three of the above five claims. Can you guess which two claims the judge agreed with, which let Anita Krajnc keep her freedom? Only numbers 3 and 4.
The judge’s reasoning is very straight forward. There was no evidence the water given to the pigs was contaminated and there was evidence it was just plain water. The truck driver did not alert the slaughterhouse to any supposed contamination and the pigs were slaughtered, and subsequently eaten by the public. Despite both the slaughterhouse and the driver being fully aware that water was given to pigs on many different dates, both before and after the incident relating to Anita Krajnc’s arrest, the slaughterhouse never rejected any pigs from being killed, ever. The truck driver stopped at a red traffic light and it was the driver’s decision to speak with Anita Krajnc, and she did not prevent the driver from leaving.
So, the judge rightly concluded that Anita Krajnc did not obstruct, interrupt or interfere with the pigs being exploited as property. Furthermore, if Anita Krajnc had done so, she did not do so wilfully, because, in the words of the judge: “There was no evidence that Ms. Krajnc intended to cause the slaughterhouse to refuse to accept that load of pigs.” It is for these reasons alone that Anita Krajnc was acquitted. In other words, she was not guilty – entirely because giving the pigs water did not make the slaughterhouse lose any money. That is it. Nothing more. In and of itself, giving pigs water did not hurt the business of selling corpses. From a pig’s point of view, is this legal verdict cause for celebration?
The judge’s rejection of the remaining three claims made by Anita Krajnc’s lawyers explain why the Pig Trial campaign actively harmed pigs. Consider the last claim; if Anita Krajnc had interfered with the exploitation of pigs as property and cost the slaughterhouse money, then doing so would have been morally justified – enough to provide legal excuse. The judge rejected that claim outright. He did so based upon the record of case law relating to legal excuse, and upon Parliament’s past amendments to such law.
The judge ruled that:
“by virtue of the laws that do exist in Canada, it is legal for farmers to raise pigs and transport them to slaughterhouses, so long as they do so in accordance with the regulations.”
“It is also legal for consumers to choose to buy the meat that comes from the pigs and eat it. Finally, it is also legal for Ms. Krajnc and others to attempt to convince consumers not to do this.” (Emphasis added.)
From the above, the judge concludes that Anita Krajnc did not have legal excuse or legally sanctioned moral justification – “colour of right.” Note the judge’s words: farmers can legally exploit and kill pigs “so long as they do so in accordance with the regulations.” The judge immediately moves from a requirement to exploit animals in accordance with regulations – regulations that serve to maximise economic efficiency and profit for exploiters – to a rejection of any moral justification. He says that some people choose to eat pig meat and some people don’t, implying that it is not a moral issue – especially in light of the judge’s conclusion that immediately follows; that there was no moral justification.
Importantly, all of this highlights the relationship between claims 2 and 5. That is, the relationship between the claim that the pigs were exploited unlawfully (due to breach of regulations) and the claim of moral justification for otherwise illegal actions. Consider:
Had the truck driver or the slaughterhouse exploited the pigs unlawfully, as claimed by Anita Krajnc’s lawyers, and as rejected by the judge, then the driver or slaughterhouse would have been in breach of animal use regulations. Anita Krajnc’s lawyers argued at length that this was the case.
For example, the defence argued that animal-use regulations state that the number of pigs who can be put into one truck depends upon the temperature, and the temperature changes from the time the pigs are loaded to the time the pigs are mid-way through their journey to the slaughterhouse. The defence noted that some trucks are fitted with watering systems for pigs, whereas the truck Ms. Krajnc approached was not. The defence argued that, just before loading, regulations require that the pigs are to be hosed down with water on a hot day, whereas this may not have happened for the pigs whom Ms. Krajnc helped.
For sanitation reasons, the law stipulates that a pig who is already dead cannot be butchered at the slaughterhouse and sent to market. Therefore, animal exploiters have to calculate the economic cost of watering pigs on a hot day and compare that cost with potential lost revenue from too many pigs dying of heat stroke and dehydration before they can be sold.” (Jeff Perz, The Pig Trial that Changed Nothing, referencing Anita Krajnc’s published summaries of court proceedings.)
The judge wrote: “Counsel for Ms. Krajnc also [unconvincingly] argued that the use of the property on that day was not lawful. More particularly he suggested that the pigs were not being transported in compliance with the governing regulations.”
One does not need to read Gary L. Francione’s books (Rain Without Thunder, Animals as Persons and The Animal Rights Debate) in order to see the obvious truth that the abovementioned regulations are designed to minimise economic loss and maximise efficiency and profits for slaughterhouses. As argued by Francione, any minimal ‘benefit’ that pigs get from receiving ‘adequate’ water, for example, is a mere side-effect of the single purpose of making money from dead pigs.
So, had the judge agreed with Anita Krajnc’s lawyers that her actions were morally justified and thus legally excusable, then what could the ‘moral’ justification have been? Namely, the justification that animal-use regulations were allegedly violated. In other words, the so-called ‘moral’ justification that the pigs were not being exploited efficiently enough. By giving the pigs water, Anita Krajnc was enforcing animal-use, pro-efficiency-and-profit regulations. Therefore, argued her lawyers, Anita Krajnc’s actions had “colour of right.” What a disgrace.
So how are pigs harmed by the Pig Trial campaign? Considering what I have said so far, the answer is as follows. Thanks to the Pig Trial, now there is one more legal ruling enshrining the property status of pigs and other animals. Their property status has been further codified by a) the ruling itself and b) the arguments made by Anita Krajnc’s lawyers regarding animal-use regulations, and the resulting response to those arguments found in the judge’s ruling; newly made case law. Given this increased codification of the property status of pigs, now it is even more likely that non-human animals will always be exploited horrifically, so long as no economic inefficiency is involved. So long as no animal-use regulations are violated.
Additionally, Anita Krajnc’s lawyers and their expert witness ineptly argued for the laudable claim that pigs are (or ought to be) legal persons, not property. It is well and good to argue that animals are persons, even in the face of a speciesist judge, speciesist media and a speciesist society. It is well and good for supporters to stand outside the courthouse with signs saying “Animals Are Not Property.” It is well and good for Anita Krajnc to say so herself. Unfortunately, there is a glaring and destructive contradiction.
On the one hand, Anita Krajnc’s lawyers argued that pigs are not property. On the other hand, they argued in court at length that the exploitation of pigs-as-property should be adequately regulated. Again, those regulations only serve to protect the interests of human property owners and ignore the inherent (non-instrumental) interests of pigs. These regulations assume that pigs are property and, even when they are fully enforced, they result in pigs being used as property. (For evidence and more explanation of this, read Francione’s books mentioned above.) In short, the lawyers ineptly argued that pigs are not property, and then went on to argue that they are property. This harms pigs. In making his ruling, the judge said; “In passing, I note that dogs and cats and other pets are property too, and not persons.”
Had Anita Krajnc and her lawyers decided not to argue that the pigs were exploited unlawfully, then at least that would have removed this anti-abolitionist element from the defence – and from the anti-abolitionist ruling in response to that defence. The defence could have declined to comment on whether or not the pigs were exploited lawfully, because that is beside the point. As Francione often remarks, the point is it is wrong to exploit pigs in the first place, regardless of how it is done. If the argument about animal use regulations had been omitted, then the “colour of right” defence would not have been tainted.
To avoid a conviction, they could still have argued as a matter of fact (not as a matter of ethical opinion or argument) that there was no interference with the exploiter’s use of the pigs. They could still have argued, more persuasively, that pigs and all non-human animals ought to be legal persons, based upon their sentience alone – not their intelligence. Even when a speciesist court rejects such an argument, it is still a good argument to make. It has educational value.
The educational value of the Pig Trial campaign is just as contradictory and harmful as the legal arguments themselves.
In his ruling, the judge remarked that the trial has “provided [Ms. Krajnc] and her movement with all of the publicity they could hope for. Conversely, the act of prosecuting Ms. Krajnc has probably led to enough bad publicity for the pork industry…”
What is the nature of that publicity? It has been claimed that the Pig Trial campaign has created new vegans. Even if that is true, consider that the campaign may have also caused people to eat ‘free range’ animal products, which equally involve abhorrent suffering, exploitation and killing. Some people go vegan, inexplicably, because they are exposed to a campaign that seeks to replace one kind of horrific killing of animals with another equally horrific method. Others, in response to the same campaign, are comforted by the idea that something is supposedly being done to ‘protect’ animals, and so they continue to eat conventional eggs, honey, meat and dairy.
It is common sense that members of the public are more likely to go vegan if they are presented with clear, persuasive messages that encourage them to go vegan. It is common sense that people are less likely to go vegan if they are given messages that recommend things other than going vegan, or give them less motivation to go vegan. Of course, there will be exceptions on either side. In general, however, the above common-sense principle holds in practice.
Along with messages such as “go vegan” and “animals are not property,” the media perpetuated the following ideas that came from Pig Trial campaign lawyers. These are direct quotations from media coverage, followed by my comments.
“‘[Anita’s] intention all along was the avoidance of harm,’ which should trump the owner’s right not to have his property touched, Grill [Ms. Krajnc’s lawyer] said.”
In other words, Anita Krajnc’s lawyer is assuming that pigs are, in fact, property.
“Ms. Krajnc’s lawyers, James Silver (a well-known animal-rights lawyer) and Gary Grill, used the appearances to highlight what they perceive as cruelties in the meat industry.”
The problem is not cruelties in the meat industry, but the fact that animals are used in the first place – for meat, eggs, and dairy, as well as every other purpose.
“‘The pig trial is supposedly about me being on trial for giving thirsty pigs water, but what’s really happened is I think the factory-farm industry is being put on trial,’ Ms. Krajnc said.”
“The intent, Ms. Krajnc’s other lawyer, Gary Grill, said, is to put on display ‘the evils of the pork industry in particular in this case, but the larger meat industry in general.’”
Factory farming should not be put on trial. Rather, the use of animals for any purpose –regardless of treatment – should be put on trial. As Francione argues, however, the law and trials are useless until we first get a critical mass of committed ethical vegans.
The point should not be to display the evils of the pig meat, and overall meat, industries. Rather, the point is that all animal use industries, and animal use itself, should be abolished and we should be talking about why that is the case with the media. Instead, this is what was reported on:
“During cross-examination, Veldjesgraaf said the animals are given water before and after they’re loaded onto the trucks, but not during transit.”
“Court heard that there are guidelines for the transportation of livestock, including that they should be protected from ‘undue hardship’ and that the floor of the truck should be lined with hay or wood chips.”
“When asked if guidelines for transporting animals are aimed at ensuring the welfare and safety of animals, Veldjesgraaf responded yes, adding that it’s also for the welfare of ‘the food chain.’”
“But transport laws prohibit exposing animals to suffering from weather exposure. The industry’s own code of practice states, ‘all species will pant when overheated, animals standing with neck extended with open mouthed breathing is a dangerous situation.’”
“Though the industry hasn’t updated its trucks to better comply with regulations, it should. In a case dealing with farmed animals suffering to death from weather exposure in transport, the Federal Court of Appeal recently made the common-sense observation that regulations can require regulated parties to improve their operations and practices.”
“But beyond the spectacle, the case gave the activists an opportunity to raise serious questions about the state of animal welfare in food production.”
“In his questioning of Eric Van Boekel, the owner of the pigs in question, Ms. Krajnc’s lawyer, James Silver, spent hours Thursday asking detailed questions about the farmer’s operation. Throughout the testy exchanges, Mr. Van Boekel and Mr. Silver jostled over the use of antibiotics on animals, the amount of space granted to each animal, and the types of equipment used in transporting them.”
“Meanwhile, the regulations followed by farmers are developed alongside animal-welfare experts and overseen by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.”
“Pigs that are transported and slaughtered with full stomachs not only produce lower-quality pork, but are also more prone to sickness, vomiting and in-transit death. Ms. Krajnc told reporters Thursday that members of her group not only give water to animals, but sometimes also food, such as watermelon.”
“Peter Sankoff, a professor at the University of Alberta who specializes in animal law, said that the trial is an opportunity to bring to light questions about whether the transport rules set out by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency need to be overhauled.”
“The CFIA’s rules, Prof. Sankoff said, are ‘amongst the worst in the world.’ He pointed to regulations that allow pigs to be in transit for up to 36 hours without water whereas in Europe, the limit is eight.”
“Meanwhile, the National Farm Animal Care Council, which creates codes of conduct for farmers in this country that aren’t legal requirements but reflect industry standards, are already working on updating transport codes.”
The above discussion in the media focuses on non-human animal treatment, not the fundamentally unethical practice of using them in the first place. As argued in Francione’s books, blogs and podcasts, laws and regulations that pertain to the treatment of non-human animals are inherently incapable of protecting animals beyond the extent needed to maximise profit and economic efficiency. The media’s discussion of animal-use regulations feeds the public’s assumptions that a) everything is fine, b) there are isolated animal ‘welfare’ problems that are being addressed by law enforcement or c) there are systemic animal ‘welfare’ problems that need to be addressed by legal reform. Not only does all of the above miss the point, but the entire discussion perpetuates the public’s belief that animal use is morally acceptable, and it frames the debate in that way.
“Canada judge says Toronto activist Anita Krajnc did not interfere ‘with the lawful use’ of property in case that rallied animal rights activists.”
“The case – described as a ‘landmark’ by PETA – attracted media attention around the world as it pitted property rights against animal welfare.”
In other words, the right of a human property owner not to have someone come up and give harmless food to his dog-property, or benign water to his pig-property, versus animal ‘welfare’ – which literally means, in law, ‘protecting’ the interests of animals to the extent required to maximise efficiency and profit, and no more than that. Making sure pigs don’t die of thirst before they get to the kill floor. This is how the media framed the issue.
The above quotations from the media have their direct origins in the court proceedings, the judicial verdict and activist statements. They flatly contradict the vegan ethic, and the idea that animals should not be legal property. People go vegan, or decide to remain non-vegan, for all kinds of reasons. It is up to us to be clear, persuasive and – above all – consistent. We must advocate for ethical veganism, and abolitionist veganism as developed by Francione. We must avoid distracting discussion of “cruelty,” “compassion,” “factory farming” and inherently harmful animal-use regulations. We must not further entrench the property status of animals in court and in other legal campaigns, by tinkering with the methods of oppression.
Creative, non-violent vegan education. Public debate about ending all animal use. Not mixing in legal campaigns and other single issue campaigns. These are the only things that will create significant positive change for non-human animals. Let’s do it.