At 6 a.m. on Sunday, April 28, a group of 50 Meat the Victims animal rights activists entered Excelsior Hog Farm, owned and operated by a board member of the British Columbia Pork Producers Association in Canada. Once activists were inside, Meat the Victims organizers reported that the facility promptly went on lockdown. The activists didn’t budge. They stayed to bear witness, pleading with farmers to help the distressed animals, many of which were found pregnant and dehydrated.
Meat the Victims protests are part of the animal rights movement’s effort to create more transparency and accountability in the animal agriculture industry, not just in Canada, but the United States, Australia, Britain, and anywhere there are farm animals suffering. Check out footage of the unprecedented demonstration at Excelsior Hog Farm here.
Nearly 200 animal rights activists gathered outside of an industry-leading pig farm in an industry-leading country: to bring awareness to the crimes of animal agriculture. On the back of the shirts worn by the demonstrators, Meat the Victims adorned this simple truth, “One has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.”
In a sweeping act of defiance, activists can be seen sprinting past the “No Trespassing” signs and attempting to gain access to the pig farm. In doing so, they put themselves at certain risk of facing criminal trespassing and breaking and entering charges. “That’s okay,” said Amy Soranno, a spokesperson for the group of activists who made it inside the facility. “We’re challenging the law. That’s what we came here to do.”
Soranno was later taken into custody. The rest of the activists walked peacefully off the property, many with tears streaming down their faces, holding peace signs and white flowers in their hands.
Excelsior Hog Farm is located in Abbotsford, British Columbia, a community that earns a higher dollar per acre of agricultural land than any other city in Canada. More than 1,000 pigs are currently being held at the facility.
The following excerpt is from a statement released by Meat the Victims activists today:
“Once we arrived at the farm and began filing out of buses, we could hear dogs barking and sirens blazing in the distance,” stated a Meat The Victims participant. The group jogged down a long path, heading for the back of the farm, stating what they saw when they arrived was just the beginning of a “horrific nightmare.” “The first thing we saw was dumpsters full of dead rotting pig carcasses, my heart was racing, and hands were shaking, I didn’t have any fear of being caught, but was so terrified of what we were about to witness inside.” Due to the secrecy of animal agriculture, many people have never seen inside an industrial animal farm. The group’s goal was to bring the truth to light.
Soon after the group arrived, around 140 activists formed a protest outside of the facility, and 65 activists (fully dressed in biosecurity suits, masks, and booties) attempted to go inside. Of the 65 activists, 50 successfully gained access into the farm. “As I stepped inside, at first all I saw was darkness, but as my eyes adjusted, I began to see hundreds of eyes curiously looking at me, my stomach sunk.”
The activists inside occupied a room full of gestation crates. “Gestation crates are used to immobilize pregnant pigs for weeks on end,” stated an activist, continuing “we occupied an entire row of crates and documented the animals’ heartbreaking existence. The air was nauseating, the concrete slatted floors were cold and filthy, many of the pigs could barely fit into the crates–with their legs, tails, and noses hanging out, pushed against the metal bars. All of these pigs had various cuts and sores, and were conducting unnatural repetitive behaviors, showing signs of insanity.” At least one pig appeared to be lying in a pool of her own blood, with a severely bruised face, and the group witnessed a pig having a miscarriage. “The hundreds of pregnant mothers had a variety of different markings spray painted on their bodies, one row of females in particular really struck me–the pigs were all facing the concrete wall, unable to turn around,” stated an activist.
“This just goes to show that there is no right way to do the wrong thing. This farm is as good as it gets.”
The activists refused to leave the facility until the owner of the farm agreed to allow accredited media inside, to which the farm eventually agreed. Based on information passed between the outside and inside groups, the media tour was delayed by three hours while the farm cleaned-up specific areas and decided who would be allowed in. Eventually, five out of the 11 news outlets were approved. The investigative outlet The Intercept and CTV News were of the group who were removed from the tour. We had full bio suits available for anyone entering the barn, but the farmers were not concerned about this. Therefore media, farmers, police, and even the vet went in without any protection.
Throughout this delay, activists begged the farm to help the most distressed animals. “In exchange for immediate veterinary care, we agreed to leave the gestation room, but the vets who arrived only took a brief look at any animals,” stated an activist who was inside. The activists also pleaded with the farmers to give the pigs water, of which their trough was empty upon the activist’s arrival. “These pregnant pigs were so dehydrated, desperately nudging their trough and frothing at the mouth.” The farmers eventually agreed to give the pigs water.
The media tour went roughly as the Pork Producers Association wanted it to go, but nothing could hide the cruel reality of animal agriculture. Excelsior hog farm is owned and operated by a board member of the BC Pork Producers Association, and Excelsior is considered an industry leader. “This just goes to show that there is no right way to do the wrong thing,” stated an activist. “This farm is as good as it gets.”
A sign posted inside read, “What happens in the barn, stays in the barn,” an explicit reminder of the industry’s aversion to transparency.
Since the negotiations had been met, the group of activists inside agreed to leave. The police informed them that they were all under arrest for trespassing and breaking and entering and that they could possibly be charged eventually, but would otherwise be free to go.
“We celebrated our accomplishments,” stated one of the activists. “But none of us will forget those we left behind.”
Read Sentient Media’s breaking news coverage from Excelsior Hog Farm.
Matt is the Managing Editor at Sentient Media. Previously, he wrote for Outside Online and helped launch Anxy, an award-winning magazine of personal narratives in mental health.