ABBOTSFORD, B.C. – Dozens of protesters rallied at a hog farm in British Columbia’s Fraser Valley on Sunday in a response to a video that activists said showed sick and dead pigs packed into cramped crates at the facility.
About 200 people arrived on buses to Excelsior Hog Farm in Abbotsford at around 6 a.m. About 50 snuck into a barn while the others stood outside wearing black shirts that read “Meat the Victims” and singing.
In the afternoon, police led the barn occupants out of the facility, took their information and arrested one person for mischief and break and enter. Officers will continue a criminal investigation of those who entered the barn, said Abbotsford Police Sgt. Judy Bird.
“This is a peaceful protest and people have the right to protest,” she said. “However, we also recognize the fact that this is private property.”
The demonstration comes after People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals released a video that it said was shot at the farm. The clip posted on YouTube appears to show dead piglets left among living animals, as well as fully-grown pigs with growths and lacerations.
Protester Susan Rowbottom, 28, was among those led out of the barn while her eight-year-old son participated in the protest outside. All the activists left the property by about 2:30 p.m., she said.
“I am proud to be part of this team. I am proud to be with all my fellow vegans,” she said. “We just want to open the public’s eyes so they can see and make an informed decision about where their food comes from.”
Ray Binnendyk, one of the brothers who operates Excelsior, said the PETA video was shot in secret by someone trespassing at night and he believes some of the images were staged.
“Some of those pictures could not have even been from our farm. We are not sure. I find it’s very hard when someone puts out information that’s incorrect about how we do things here as a family farm,” he said.
“It’s very disturbing to see what traction this gets in the media for people that are implicating us as criminals.”
His brother Jeff Binnendyk said the farm is “clean” and if they did not take proper care of every pig, it would not still be operating.
“We’re more scared about the safety of our pigs and about what kind of diseases (protesters are) bringing in or, after all of this is done, what’s going to happen to our herd,” he said.
Rowbottom said activists inside the barn were wearing biohazard suits with foot coverings and gloves and they did not touch any of the animals.
Ray Binnendyk said the B.C. Society for the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals was looking into the farm.
The brothers raise the animals to the best of their ability and follow industry guidelines that require veterinarians to visit every few months, he added.
“It’s a very hard industry and it’s fun,” he said. “We love what we do and we’re very, very saddened by the fact that we are implicated as bad people when we are not.”
The brothers were joined by dozens of people who arrived on the farm property to support them on Sunday.
Dr. Josh Waddington, a veterinarian who said he visits Excelsior every three months, said the PETA video was meant to show the farm in the “worst light” and he is proud of the care the animals receive there.
After watching the video, he said he spoke with the operators about removing some animals from their pens sooner, but he added that “those things happen.”
“This farm is very well recognized in their ability and their level of care and attention to welfare,” Waddington said. “They have been industry leaders.”