Animal rights group pushes for safety agreement with Burlington pork plant

Animal rights group pushes for safety agreement with Burlington pork plant
Animal rights group wants trucks carrying pigs to stop outside Fearmans for five minutes
An animal rights group that gathers weekly outside a slaughterhouse in Burlington is asking the pig processing company to have each of its trucks entering the plant stop for a set amount of time outside its gates so activists can protest safely.

Officials with Toronto Pig Save (TPS) sent an email to several people including Michael Latifi, CEO of Sofina Foods, parent company of Fearmans Pork. TPS is requesting that while its members walk back and forth demonstrating in front of the entrance to the pork plant on Harvester Road, just east of Appleby Line, every truck bringing pigs into the facility for slaughter stop outside for five minutes.

“….Over the last few years, the safety of attending protesters has been severely compromised on a number of occasions. We are reaching out to you in an attempt to resolve this dangerous situation,” said an email signed by Toronto Pig Save founder Anita Krajnc and fellow TPS organizers Lori Croonen and James O’Toole.

“A significant minority of truck drivers arriving at the slaughterhouse have behaved aggressively and recklessly towards protesters, putting lives in danger. The Highway Traffics Act gives priority to pedestrians and drivers should not be driving into peaceful vigil attendees,” the email continues.

Toronto Pig Save does not reference any specific incidents or injuries that might have prompted the request to Fearmans/Sofina Foods.

TPS has held weekly vigils outside Fearmans, at the intersection of Harvester Road and Appleby Line, for seven years.

“….The purpose of our vigils is to bear witness to the animals arriving for slaughter. We show them compassion and take photos of the animals in the trucks and post those images to social media in hope of breaking the disconnect people have regarding the way they see the food on their plate….” states the email.

Often, placard-carrying protesters station themselves on the east side of Appleby Line, on the sidewalk, just north of Harvester Road. In the past, some animal rights supporters have run up to a truck stopped at the traffic light waiting to turn left and squirted water from a bottle for the benefit of what they say are overheated or dehydrated pigs.

Lately, protesters have been parading on the sidewalk in front of Fearmans’ gated entrance off Harvester Road.

“…. We demand that you relay a message to the drivers that dangerous driving will not be tolerated and abrogates the Highway Traffics Act. Fearmans and drivers need to put safety first. The best way to ensure this is to close the security gates at the truck entrance to Fearmans for five minutes for each transport truck. There needs to be patience and also both acceptance and respectfulness of our presence ….,” says the email.

Sofina Foods responded to Toronto Pig Save’s request to stop trucks for five minutes at a time with an Oct. 31 email that places the blame for any unsafe situation on TPS.

“Sofina respects the right to freedom of expression, as protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. For several years, the Toronto Pig Save group has expressed its views on the public sidewalk outside of our Burlington facility and Sofina has never impeded any lawful activities in this regard.

“We are dismayed by Toronto Pig Save’s illegal and unsafe tactics, which include interfering with the ingress and egress of trucks from our property causing a complete or partial blockage of the intersection, trespassing on our property and verbally harassing our employees and business partners.

“These illegal and unsafe tactics have only intensified in recent years and jeopardize the wellbeing of The Toronto Pig Save group’s members, our employees and the general public alike. We expect that the group will continue to express its views on the public sidewalk without impeding the ingress or egress of vehicles from the facility, trespassing on our property or verbally harassing our employees or business partners.”

“We have taken steps, such as increasing security and engaging (with) Halton police, to mitigate the impact of these illegal actions on the safety of the protesters, Sofina employees and our business partners….

“We have engaged Halton police on numerous occasions when the circumstances required it. Halton Police has intervened and charged protesters on some of these occasions.”

Toronto Pig Save says it already has arrangements in place with Toronto-area slaughterhouses to stop their vehicles briefly.

“For example, at Maple Leaf ‘Poultry’ the plant manager arranged for the transport trucks to stop in the road in front of the slaughterhouse for five minutes to allow us to bear witness before they enter. It is both morally imperative and in both our interests to come to a similar agreement with Fearmans Pork Inc. Without a safety agreement, it is only a matter of time before someone gets seriously injured or worse.”

Burlington city and regional councillor Paul Sharman, in whose Ward 5 Fearmans is located, received the same email from Toronto Pig Save. He responded to TPS.

“I have copied a number of Halton Region, Halton Regional Police and City of Burlington staff who have been involved in assessing delays cause by the actions of your group over the last few years and the shift in tactics of recent months.

“I ask the members of the Halton Region, Halton police and City of Burlington staff … to provide a briefing to pertinent people cc’d here with respect (to) the proposal below.”

When asked what he meant by his statement about Toronto Pig Save’s “shift in tactics in recent months” Sharman told the Post that protesters blow a whistle and block the Harvester Road entrance to Fearmans forcing the long trucks carrying pigs to stop with the back end of the vehicle protruding into traffic.

“I’ve seen it many, many times…. I’m sympathetic to (people’s) choice of food and healthy eating but not through blocking traffic. I think they should find other ways to do it. They do not need to block traffic,” said Sharman.

“If I was a campaigning candidate out on the street and blocking traffic, it wouldn’t be seen” as safe or appropriate, he added.

A couple of notable incidents have occurred in the last few years outside the Fearmans meat processing plant.

On June 22, 2015, Toronto Pig Save founder Anita Krajnc was charged with criminal mischief by Halton police after giving water to pigs on a truck that was stopped at a traffic light near the Fearmans plant. In May 2017 she was acquitted of the charge.

Krajnc was later charged with obstructing police and breach of recognizance following an Oct. 5, 2016 incident where a truck transporting 190 hogs to Fearmans overturned in front of the facility. Forty-two of the pigs died or were put down on the scene. The charges against Krajnc were stayed.

Toronto Pig Save says it ultimately wants to convince Fearmans/Sofina Foods to process plant-based protein alternatives “for you and the sake of your children and grandchildren…. Consuming animal products causes a whole host of diseases and is a major contributor to climate change. A recent UN report has warned that the Earth only has 12 years left to combat climate change before it becomes irreversible,” states TPS’ email.

“Your competitors Tyson and Maple Leaf have been investing in plant-based alternatives to meat since 2016…. Companies such as bluehorizon.com are exemplary ethical companies who are also taking advantage of this global opportunity and approaching China and other key countries with climate solutions, rather than contributing to climate catastrophe. Please join these positive forces. We believe you can do it!”

Animal rights activist Anita Krajnc gives water to a pig in a truck in a handout photo. On the eve of a court appearance, Krajnc is unapologetic about providing water to sweltering pigs in a truck on their way to the slaughterhouse on a hot day earlier this year.

Animal rights group Toronto Pig Save has launched a petition calling on a Sofina Foods pork plant in Burlington to sign a safety agreement for vigils.

The group has gathered once a week at the Fearman’s plant on Harvester Road and Appleby Line since 2011.

Protesters observe and — during the summer months — feed water to pigs as they approach the plant on trucks.

“There was a woman who was standing where the traffic lights are and the truck ran into her and she cracked a rib and went to hospital,” says the group’s co-founder, Anita Krajnc.

Toronto Pig Save claims arrangements have been made with slaughterhouses in Toronto and L.A. to keep the gates closed to the trucks for up to five minutes to allow protesters to approach the pigs safely.

Krajnc says a letter has also been sent to Michael Latifi, the CEO of Sofina Foods and several politicians including area councillor, Paul Sharman.

He says residents have been contacting him for years about how the vigils have impacted the community.

“I respect people’s rights to protest, but I do not think it’s appropriate to do so in a way that creates safety concerns,” said Sharman.

At a past vigil, he says he witnessed traffic trying to move around a trailer that was crossing multiple lanes because the truck had been stopped by protesters.

It’s something he’s hoping a traffic management steering committee comprised of regional, municipal and police representatives will tackle during its next meeting.

Krajnc says she believes protesters should be protected as pedestrians under the Highway Traffic Act because there are traffic lights at Fearmans.