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The Escalating Fight Against Animal Agriculture

A 200-person break-in at a BC pig farm signalled new tactics. What comes next? A Tyee special report.

Kate Helmore 13 Dec 2022TheTyee.ca

Kate Helmore was a Tula Foundation Immersive Journalism fellow with The Tyee.

At 6 a.m. on April 28, 2019, two school buses stopped on Harris Road in the heart of Abbotsford farm country.

The doors opened and out poured 200 people wearing N95s, white hazmat suits and black T-shirts bearing a Martin Luther King quote in white print: “One has the moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.”

Video footage taken that day captures the crowd crossing the road and running down a gravel driveway towards Excelsior Hog Farm — specifically, the large, enclosed barn that houses its breeding pigs. The activists skirted around the side of the barn, found a small back door and broke it open.

Calvin and Jeff Binnendyk, who co-own the farm with a third brother, Ray Binnendyk, rushed to the door and tried to hold the crowd at bay. “Private property!” Calvin Binnendyk yelled. “Please leave!”

“This is a peaceful protest!” someone in the crowd yelled back. “You can’t touch us!”

The owners heaved the door closed, but it was too late. Fifty activists were already inside the barn.

Excelsior is a large operation, housing between 13,000 to 15,000 pigs at any given time. Many of these pigs were inside the barn, enclosed in metal pens approximately two feet wide by seven feet long.

“The toxic air burns your throat and nostrils,” recalls Amy Soranno, the lead organizer of the protest. “There’s no open windows.... There’s just tens of thousands of pigs crammed inside a warehouse.”

Within minutes, she and the other activists heard the sound of sirens. The police had arrived.

But Soranno wasn’t worried. She and her fellow activists knew they were breaking the law. In fact, that was their intention. To Soranno, the law itself is broken. Justice must therefore be sought outside of it.

A divisive, intensifying debate

Meat the Victims, an animal rights organization to which Soranno and her fellow activists belong, is an international community of people who are “willing to disobey unjust laws” to “abolish animal exploitation.” The movement was born in Australia in 2018, and has quickly picked up steam globally, with numerous protests in Ireland, the Netherlands, the U.K., Israel and Canada.

The movement believes that if the public could see how animals were treated in industrial farming situations, they would stop “murdering” them. It therefore commands followers to break into animal agriculture operations, “locking down inside the very places the animals are hostage” and filming what happens inside allow the public to “meet the victims of their choices.”

The April 28 Meat the Victims protest at Excelsior was the first time animal rights activists in Canada have stormed a farm in numbers, holding the owners and their property hostage. But it would not be the last. Since April 2019, Soranno has led a sit-in at a chicken farm in Toronto, where, alongside three other activists, she chained herself to a concrete block on the kill floor. She also organized an occupation of a turkey farm in October 2021, alongside another activist — Jenny McQueen — who, in December 2019, had led a group to break into a pig farm in Quebec.

After the activists were carted away by the police, Ray Binnendyk, speaking to the media later that day while offering a tour of his pig farm, offered his perspective. “This farm facility is a modern-day farm and we do an awesome job as a family taking care of these animals,” he told the crowd of TV reporters gathered inside the barn. His operations are to the standards expected in Canadian animal agriculture: they are inspected by a veterinarian every three months and abide by all the requirements of the law.

In fact, Binnendyk told Global News that Excelsior was one of the first farms in the province that allowed pigs to leave their pens on their own and walk around freely.

In a statement to CBC News, Josh Waddington, the vet who regularly visits Excelsior, said the farm has a clean reputation.

“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.”

The Binnendyks did not respond to The Tyee’s repeated requests for an interview. BC Pork also did not respond to The Tyee’s requests for an interview. One of the directors of BC Pork is Ray Binnendyk. Waddington also declined to be interviewed by The Tyee and did not respond to emailed questions.

The goal of Meat the Victims is not to force farmers like Binnendyk to obey the laws as they stand. Instead, they’re committed to direct action in service of the elimination of animal agriculture.

“If standing up for what is right is considered radical, I will accept that title,” Soranno said in a talk she gave to a classroom of students at UBC. Soranno, who became a vegan to counteract her health conditions, became an activist soon afterwards. But she says she’s always believed in standing up for what is right.

“I remember in school biology class a dead piglet was slammed on the table in front of me, and I was instructed to tear their body apart in the time of science,” Soranno told The Tyee. “I refused.”

Soranno lives in Kelowna, B.C. and has bright blue hair — a colour worn by the crowds of supporters that gathered outside the courthouse on Wednesday, Oct. 12, when the B.C. Supreme Court sentenced her and her partner Nick Schafer, who was also involved in the protest, to 30 days in jail plus one year probation. Two other activists, Roy Sasano and Jeff Luke Rigear, also faced charges. Rigear’s case was dropped and Sasano was acquitted. Soranno and Schafer must also submit their DNA to the DNA Database, a sentence usually reserved for violent and sexual offenders. As justification for this requirement, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Frits. E. Verhoeven pointed to Soranno and Schafer’s convictions, their belief that they were morally right and their likelihood to do it again. On Oct. 18, Soranno and Schafer were granted bail pending approval.

 An illustration shows a pig in a crate.

This ruling marks the first time in Canadian history that animal rights activists were sentenced for breaking and entering and mischief as part of a protest.

Justice Verhoeven also denied the defendants the right to bring evidence forward about the conditions the animals faced at Excelsior, or other meat production facilities. This is not precedent. In other cases, defendants were allowed to bring forward experts on animal rights and welfare, in order to speak to the defendants motivations, but, in the case of Soranno and Schafer, the judge said that “the court cannot permit itself to be used as a platform for expression of political views which in and of themselves have no bearing on the court’s decision.” Soranno refused to abide by these rules: during the sentencing hearing, she read a statement that delved into the abuses of animal agriculture. The judge cut her off, explaining that “no purpose would be served by carrying on in this respect.”

The tactics used by Meat the Victims, and their desire to bring about a complete end to animal agriculture in Canada, probably will not resonate with the vast majority of Canadians, who consume some form of meat, eggs or dairy.

But the case of the Excelsior 4, as they refer to themselves, exposes an issue at the heart of Canada’s animal agricultural system — one that many people are likely to find compelling. Experts say animal welfare standards are opaque and poorly defined, and, moreover, the standards we have in place are not reliably enforced. This, critics contend, leads to miserable lives for many farm animals.

Producers face issues, too, however. Wrestling with price-controlled monopolies and narrow profit margins, they argue that they have little choice — they are doing their best to raise animals as ethically as possible.

It is a divisive debate, and one that only promises to heat up.

In his sentencing for Soranno and Shafer, Justice Verhoeven argued that the law must be used as a tool to counteract the radical actions of activists and maintain “a just, peaceful and safe society.”

But Soranno and others like her say their goals, at heart, are similar. “I am fighting for that same just, peaceful and safe society,” she told The Tyee. “And right now we do not have it.”

So what’s the solution?

Industry standards

The police arrived 15 minutes after the Binnendyks called for backup. By that point, around 50 activists were already inside. They demanded a media tour. At first Calvin Binnendyk and his family refused. They live on the property and had had no time to prepare. Dozens of surprise visitors could have a negative impact on their sows, rendering them more vulnerable to disease due to the potential introduction of pathogens.

But the activists would not leave. Eventually, the Binnendyks agreed to their demands.

They scheduled the tour for 11 a.m. For hours the activists sat on soiled floors in the barn and livestreamed. They zoomed in on the bloodied faces of pigs poking through the cold metal bars of their pens.

“When you look at these animals, the darkness just chills your bones,” an activist called Tessa told those filming at the time. “It’s overwhelming being in here.”

But as Ray Binnendyk pointed out, the conditions caught on tape by activists that day meet the industry’s standards.

These standards are determined by the Codes of Practice, which is in turn developed by the National Farm Animal Care Council, a board made up primarily of producers and industry, and rounded out by veterinarians, animal welfare agencies and researchers. These Codes of Practice determine what’s reasonable for animals in agricultural operations; a separate act, the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, applies to pets and wild animals, exempting hunting and trapping, as well as agricultural animals, capturing actions that veer outside of what’s covered in the Codes of Practice.

Gestation stalls, for example, are permitted by the Codes of Practice for pigs. These stalls are the norm in most of the 3,000 hog breeding facilities across Canada. They must be wide enough for a pig to stand, sit and lie down without its udders protruding through the bars. A stall does not need to be big enough for a pig to turn around.

The stalls are a necessary part of production, according to the industry. They increase control over each sow’s feed intake, prevent aggression between sows and, by restricting movement, make it so that new sows cannot lie on and crush their piglets.

Slatted floors are also industry standard. While uncomfortable and hard on the pigs’ bodies (they lead to leg sores and lameness), these floors are more hygienic than straw or hay, industry asserts, because they allow urine and manure to fall through the slats into a collection pit below.

So while some of what the Meat the Victims activists livestreamed may feel grim or sad to an outsider, nothing they filmed is abnormal or disallowed in Canada.

Outside of what was captured April 28, 2019, however, video does exist of Excelsior Hog Farm appearing to violate codes of practice. At midnight on Feb. 9, 2019, two months before 200 activists descended on Excelsior, someone quietly broke into the barn and hid cameras. They returned one month later, according to charges filed by crown counsel, to retrieve the data and put up new cameras.

The footage captured by the first batch of cameras was published on Vimeo. The seven-minute video appears to show a number of non-standard acts that would not fall under the Codes of Practice, including electric cattle prodding to the face and the castration of piglets without pain relief.

A second batch of hidden cameras was discovered by the Binnendyks on March 21, 2019, 16 days after they were allegedly initially planted. Court records say that the family watched the footage, finding nothing amiss, and handed the footage over to the police. One camera went missing except for a half-chewed battery pack — presumed eaten by a pig. This footage was misplaced by the Abbotsford Police Department.

Amy Soranno, Nick Schafer, Roy Sasanno and Jeff Luke Rigear were charged with breaking and entering and mischief for allegedly placing the cameras in the barn. However, the charges were eventually dropped. While Rigear admitted to the BC SPCA that he broke into the property, none of the other activists have confessed, either in court or to the media.

But activists faced a larger problem. In B.C., neither batch of hidden camera footage could be used to press charges against Excelsior, even if the footage captured cruelty against animals.

960px version of EMBED_Pig-Conflict.jpg

How whistleblowing has changed animal welfare rules

The BC SPCA is the only animal welfare organization in B.C. with the authority to enforce animal cruelty laws under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. However, the evidence collected at Excelsior could not be verified and was illegally obtained. Crown counsel therefore told the BC SPCA the evidence was inadmissible in court.

On the day of the Meat the Victims protest, media arrived at Excelsior Hog Farm for a tour at 11 a.m. The reporters hustled down the gravel driveway, past crowds of supporters and activists that had gathered outside. “We love Excelsior,” yelled a crowd of family and friends, waving their hands in the air towards the Global News crew. They brought out a large white sign: “we [heart] our farm,” it said. Children signed their names.

Opposite the supporters and scattered across the property was a crowd of 150 activists playing guitars and singing songs about justice.

Media, alongside three veterinarians — called to give advice about management of protesters and media inside — were escorted into the barn. Inside, Ray Binnendyk took them on a tour of the facility.

“We really pray that everyone sees the truth about us and sees that we are good people just trying to make a good product,” he told Global News.

When the tour ended, the police arrested all 50 activists inside the barn. After recording their identities on-scene, police released everyone but Soranno, who was taken to Abbotsford Police Department for processing.

Soranno had achieved her objective: the gates of the factory farm were burst open, and people could see inside. The three years of legal proceedings that followed were also a success in her eyes. “The fact that we went to court, and we did go to trial, and we were sentenced, this has received an immense amount of media attention, that otherwise it wouldn't,” she told The Tyee.

Transparency and critical attention, activists and experts say, are rare commodities in animal agriculture.

The BC SPCA, which has the authority to conduct unannounced site visits, is donor-funded and employs just 37 constables to cover the entirety of the province, which is home to 6,000 commercial farms. In practice, the organization told The Tyee, this means that site visits are only conducted in response to complaints.

And this is further complicated: the only legal way for a person to make a complaint from behind the closed doors of an animal farm is through whistleblowing.

This could take the form of an employee complaining, or an animal rights activist fronting as an employee and conducting an undercover investigation — a tactic has been very successful in the past.

In 2014, for example, an animal rights activist using the pseudonym “Matthew” started working undercover at Chilliwack Cattle Sales. For one month he secretly filmed the treatment of dairy cows. The video, which has since been removed from YouTube, showed employees whipping, punching, kicking and beating cows with chains, rakes, fists and booted feet, according to the animal rights organization Mercy for Animals, which-organized the undercover action.

Crown counsel laid a total of 20 counts of animal cruelty against Chilliwack Cattle Sales and seven of its employees. Two of the employees were sentenced to jail for 60 days each plus six months of probation. The company president and his brother, Ken and Wesley Kooyman, pleaded guilty to four counts of animal cruelty and were sentenced to the maximum fines of $75,000 for each of the four counts. Wesley Kooyman faced a one-year ban from serving as director of the company or caring for the animals.

The trial also led to a re-evaluation of standards for dairy farming in B.C. The dairy codes of practice were incorporated into the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, meaning that dairy farmers had to legally abide by higher standards of care.

However, whistleblowing comes with downsides. Producers consistently point to worries of biosecurity. As a result, legal whistleblowing is now under threat. It is the subject of provincial bills in Alberta, Ontario and Manitoba — so-called “ag gag” laws — that have made it illegal for people to enter agricultural facilities under false pretences.

Industry says that these laws are also intended to protect farmer’s property. For example, the Alberta bill followed an incident in February 2018 where farmer Edouard Maurice came across two people rummaging through his vehicles, fired a warning shot, hit one of the trespassers and then faced a civil suit of $100,000 for pain and post-traumatic stress disorder. The bill was therefore packaged as “protection for rural Albertans.”

Critics counter that the bills are thinly veiled attempts to suppress what little transparency exists in animal agriculture.

“I call this the failure of the Canadian legal system,” said Tayler Zavitz, a researcher at the University of Victoria who focuses on the historical and current repression of animal activism in Canada. “The failure of the Canadian legal system to protect animals in any sort of legitimate way, but also to protect those who are speaking out against what is happening to animals.”

The bills have also been called unconstitutional. When Ontario passed its bill, more than 43 law professors and constitutional and criminal law experts sent a letter to the Ministry of Agriculture stating the bill would “infringe individuals rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, and therefore violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”

B.C.’s Ministry of Agriculture declined to comment on whether the province was considering any similar bills, writing to The Tyee via email that it planned to “continue to work to find the right balance of accountability to protect animals and the rights of farmers.”

Houses of straw?

Winter has fallen on TK Ranch, located in the heart of Alberta’s grasslands, around two and a half hours northeast of Calgary. A sounder of pigs is sleeping peacefully in straw houses built on an open, snowy field. Around 55 sows and 300 piglets are cuddled close together, their hooves criss-crossing and their snouts tucked into warm beds of hay. When the wind dies down and the sun comes up, they leave their house, sticky with the heat produced by their bodies, to dig in the snow, chase each other around a field or go to the bathroom (contrary to popular belief, pigs are quite clean, and prefer to “do their business” far away from their sleeping areas).

Colleen Biggs, the co-owner of TK Ranch, builds these straw houses every winter. Biggs does not put her pigs in a barn, and she doesn’t do gestation crates or slatted floors. Her pigs are heritage breed, meaning they have thick hair and lots of fat to protect them from the weather. Biggs is one of about five producers in the country who pasture-raise pork, meaning that her pigs are free to roam large, grassy (or snowy) fields year-round. For these reasons, her ranch is classified as Animal Welfare Approved — the most stringent label of its kind in North America.

960px version of EMBED_Happy-Pigs.jpg

Biggs believes that pasture-raised pork has many benefits. Not only is it more ethical, but pigs are less bored and therefore less prone to aggression, such as ear and tail biting. This allows her to skip some of what she sees as the crueller practices of her industry, such as cutting off tails, extracting needle teeth and isolating pigs in crates.

Biggs agrees with Amy Soranno and animal rights activists on many fronts: she thinks that the industry needs higher standards and that there should be more transparency.

However, Biggs does not fault other producers for making different choices. Raising pigs the way she does is more time consuming and more expensive: It is more labour intensive and demands more space. Farmers can afford fewer animals, and therefore turn a smaller profit.

Farmers, she says, are at the mercy of a broken system that has pushed down the price of pork to levels where the ethical treatment of animals is often not financially feasible.

“It’s very easy to vilify producers for the way they’ve intensified livestock agriculture,” said Biggs. “There’s not a lot of margin to raise livestock anymore. So the only way that a lot of producers can make money is to intensify. Raising 5,000 pigs in a barn is a lot more cost-effective than doing what we do.”

Numerous times in the past few decades the price of pork has fallen below the costs of production, says Biggs. 1998 was a particularly bad year. Dubbed the “hog price wreck,” pork fell from $46 per hundred pounds to $17, or $45 for an entire 250-pound pig, according to the New York Times. Prices also collapsed in 2020 during the pandemic as slaughterhouses shut their doors. Producers faced $30 to $50 losses on each pig. In these moments, farmers have no choice. They cannot afford to pay for the transportation or the feed. Biggs says that she knows of multiple producers who walked into a field, rifle in hand, and killed every single pig they owned — their meat wasted and their investment, often in the hundreds of thousands, lost.

TK Ranch and the animals they raise survived because Biggs invested in her own slaughterhouse and processing facilities, which meant she could keep processing during the pandemic. It also meant she is not subject to the price demands of large multinational slaughterhouses and processors, such as Olymel, the largest pork producer in Canada. Olymel has 26 plants in Canada, including 14 in pork processing, according to information they provided to The Tyee.

According to its website, Olymel exports to 65 countries and processes 185,000 pigs per week. The company slogan is “feeding the world.” Biggs says that Olymel monopolizes the market, meaning they have the ability to set the prices they’ll pay producers. According to Biggs, they do not pay extra for high animal welfare standards.

“The entire industry is controlled by large multinational corporations that control what producers are paid for their meat products,” said Biggs, who noted that she slaughters eight pigs a week.

The closest Olymel plant in Red Deer, Alberta, can process 45,000 hogs a week.

In response, Olymel said that it is a large producer by Canadian standards, but not compared to the U.S. It said that it is not a monopoly, pointing to large competitors such as Maple Leaf and HyLife. However, in the last ten years, Olymel has brought two competitors: Pinty’s Delicious Foods Inc. and Big Sky, one of Canada’s largest hog farms.

When asked if they offer to pay more for pigs to producers who meet higher ethical standards, Olymel pointed The Tyee to the animal welfare section on their website. An accompanying handbook on pig welfare practices assures readers that in all Olymel facilities electric prods are forbidden, as are bright lights and steep ramps. Animals must have access to water at all times. Olymel also sedates pigs with CO2 anaesthesia before slaughter. They are also working on phasing out gestation stalls, however, have forecast a tentative deadline of 2029.

The way to gain control of prices is to slaughter and process your own meat, says Biggs. But this is no easy feat. Becoming a government-approved abattoir is a lengthy and expensive process rife with red tape and bureaucratic hurdles. For example, while Biggs can sell her meat in Alberta, she cannot sell it out of province — cutting down her customer base significantly. This is because the provinces cannot agree on harmonized meat regulations. “It was the most difficult thing we’ve ever done,” said Biggs.

Biggs says that she was able to navigate the system because she spent 20 years working in direct-to-consumer marketing before becoming an abattoir owner. She also mortgaged everything she owned. “I’m in debt up to my eyeballs,” she said.

Even once producers have a direct-to-consumer option, it’s far from smooth sailing, says Biggs. It’s necessary to find consumers who are willing to pay the higher price.

“People want change but they don’t want to pay for it,” said Biggs. “They'll go and pay $8 for a Starbucks cup of coffee — their favourite pumpkin spice latte — but if they have to pay $7.50 for a pound of ground pork, they’ll go ‘oh my god, that’s expensive.’”

Sirloin pork chops from TK Ranch cost $20.50 per kilogram, in comparison to sirloin chops from Superstore, which can cost as little as $9.98.

The other problem with the scale of operations like Biggs’ is that smaller producers would not be able to easily meet the national demand for bacon at breakfast. At least not anytime soon. To do so, Canada would need to see a boom in growth for small farms or a reduction in consumption — or consumers would need to start eating “nose to tail,” not just choice cuts like sirloin or pig belly. Most likely, all three would need to happen.

In the meantime, the BC SPCA would like to see more incremental measures taken. This means steps like surveillance, auditing and funding, rather than just ad-hoc investigations and enforcement.

Marcie Moriarty from the BC SPCA is calling for 24-7 surveillance of animal farms and a redesign of the system that would better hold producers to account. Specifically, the BC SPCA has called for constant footage monitored by third parties who could watch for violations and use the evidence in court to press charges. This strategy has many benefits: it requires less staff power compared to site inspections, it would be more publicly accessible and it would hold bad-faith producers to account. It would also remove the motive for animal rights activists to trespass and break and enter.

Instead of founding a new government agency, Moriarty would like to see more funding funnelled towards the BC SPCA. “Enforcing the law should not fall on the shoulders of donors,” she said. “We should treat animal crimes like human crimes.”

Moriarty points to a small pilot program whereby the BC SPCA conducted unannounced site visits to various farms and ranchers across the province in 2021. This would allow them to collect overall data on how the industry is faring, and offer assistance to those producers who are struggling to meet standards.

“Enforcement... it is not the solution for a system that puts animal welfare at the forefront,” said Moriarty. “We don’t utilize the police to ensure that our [child] daycare system is adequate. You don’t bring in the big guns when, realistically, you need a system that is designed to identify issues early.”

Soranno agrees with the BC SPCA on the 24-7 video surveillance. She also thinks that this footage should be accessible to the public, so that animal rights activists, too, can monitor the industry. She believes that this will also counter industry “brainwashing” that presents an “idyllic” image of how animals are raised and slaughtered.

But Soranno also thinks that the BC SPCA needs to be replaced with a “more accountable” government agency, one that is more effective and reliable.

“The time has come to replace the BC SPCA with a government enforcement agency that is independent from industry and responsive to the public,” says an email template on the Excelsior 4 website.

These measures, Soranno agreed, would eliminate her motives for breaking into animal agriculture operations. Where Soranno differs as an activist, is that transparency and accountability are not enough. More transparency means she won’t have to break into farms, but it does not mean that she will stop fighting to end the slaughter and confinement of animals.

“I am an abolitionist,” Soranno told The Tyee. “I want this industry to end.”

“Even in a jail cell, I am awarded more freedom than any farmed animal in a commercial farm,” Soranno said. “Even if I do face a jail sentence of 30 days behind bars, I will be free one day. Nick will be free one day. Animals never will unless activists like us intervene.”

A sentiment that has global appeal as, on July 18, a number of activists in Vienna, Austria gathered in front of the Canadian embassy to protest the treatment of animals at Excelsior, and the legal treatment of activists in Canada.

“Liberate animals, decriminalize activists!” said the banners held by the protesters, who also chanted through megaphones, and showed images and video footage from inside the Abbotsford hog farm.

Stopped cold turkey

At 5 a.m. on Oct. 3, 2021, a familiar scene played out in a parking lot outside St. Louis Bar & Grill, Kitchener, Ontario, as 160 people gathered outside two yellow school buses.

It was pitch black and unseasonably cold for the week before Thanksgiving, according to reporting by Jonathan Duncan of the Guelph Mercury Tribune. But the activists had planned for the weather. They wore layers underneath their white hazmat suits and black T-shirts, again bearing the quote from Martin Luther King Jr.

The activists were set to overwhelm Hybrid Turkey Farm, a facility that produces 60 per cent of the global supply of turkeys, and was also convicted for animal abuse in 2015, after a CBC Marketplace investigation caught footage of workers abusing animals.

The action was to be the followup to the Excelsior Hog Farm break-in two years before.

They were ready to go — but Amy Soranno, Nick Schafer and three other key organizers had yet to arrive. The crowd sent messages to them on Signal, an encrypted messaging chat. They phoned, over and over again. No word. A security guard approached them and told them to move their cars. They decided to drive separately to the farm, where they would gather for a 10-minute walk up the road and storm it together.

When they arrived, however, the entrance was blocked by a line of eight police officers wearing neon yellow jackets. Large white trailers were pulled across the entrance to the farm. The police told them if they tried to enter, everyone would be arrested.

As for Soranno, she was in a holding cell in Kitchener, Ontario. Hours earlier, she’d walked out of an Airbnb with Schafer, and had been immediately surrounded by police officers, who’d emerged from unmarked vehicles and cuffed them both. A large white van squealed around the corner, and Schafer and Soranno were placed inside.

At the farm, the activists formed a line in front of the police officers, rain dripping down their faces as they livestreamed footage of the police lineup and protested Ontario’s ag-gag law.

Thirteen hours later, Soranno was released from detention. Approximately 40 activists met her in the jail parking lot as she wiped tears from her eyes.

Soranno had been arrested alongside four other organizers for intent to break and enter, and for mischief, she told the camera, livestreaming as a crowd gathered behind her. She was released on bail and told that she could not contact the other organizers, save for Schafer.

“I don’t know how they found my Airbnb,” she said. “No one knew where I was.”

But, she reassured the crowd, the plan was not a failure. Her charges, her jail time and all the police resources dedicated to tracking and surveilling them told her they were doing something right, she said. This was not the end. It was rather the start of a new chapter, with new tactics.

“Continue to waste your money and resources on us,” Soranno said.

“Whatever. Go ahead. It’s not gonna work. It’s not gonna work. We’re not gonna stop fighting for animals.”  [Tyee]

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