Amy Soranno (centre) was arrested along with six others after they protesting against Ribfest in downtown Kelowna. (Twila Amato - Black Press Media)

Kelowna animal rights activist speaks out amid charges in 2019 Abbotsford hog-farm protest

Amy Soranno, along with three other activists, will appear in court on Sept. 3

Kelowna animal rights activist Amy Soranno, along with three others, are facing charges linked to their 2019 protest at an Abbotsford hog farm.

Soranno said she was originally scheduled to appear in court this August, but the hearing was postponed after further investigation was needed. Now, Soranno along with the three other activists, Nick Schafer, Roy Sasano, and Jeff Rigear are scheduled to appear in court on Sept. 3.

The four are facing charges of break-and-enter and mischief, with a total of 21 counts between them. Some of the charges are related to the “Meat the Victims” protest they staged at Excelsior Hog Farm in Abbotsford, where more than 60 activists rushed into the hog farm, “sitting on solidarity” with pigs. The other charges are related to different protests.

Soranno said taking direct action, even if it means prosecution, is all worth it.

“My fears and discomfort, around witnessing another’s suffering or engaging in civil disobedience, is nothing compared to what those pigs (at hog farms) experience,” she said.

“No legal repercussions could ever compare to what farmed animals endure during their short existence. As an advocate for animals, I feel it is my job to ensure that powerful people in courts hear the argument that animals must be considered and their lives need to be taken seriously.”

She said when policies regarding animals allow for active exploitation and ordinary campaigning fails, civil disobedience is the only moral choice.

“Charging activists after exposing criminal animal cruelty just further proves the intense lack of transparency within the industry,” she said.

The farm came under fire after video footage was released back in April 2019, showing corpses of dead piglets among live animals which “raised alarm bells” with BC SPCA.

At the time, BC Pork Producers Association said in a press release the footage shows some “areas of concerns” and will prompt a veterinarian to visit the farm, he also says it was obtained illegally and lacks important context.

Marcie Moriarty, the SPCA’s chief prevention and enforcement officer said there would be an investigation to determine if any laws have been broken. However, the BC SPCA decided not to recommend charges against an Abbotsford hog farm, due to insufficient evidence.

READ MORE: BC SPCA says no charges against Abbotsford hog farm

The farm’s veterinarian, Josh Waddington, said during the 2019 protest that he believed some of the video footage was recorded in a special-care section of the farm where animals under observation and treatment for medical conditions.

In Kelowna, Soranno, along with other animal rights activists, chained themselves together in front of Interior Savings Credit Union in November, protesting the bank’s support of the annual Ribfest Kelowna.

Proceeds from Ribfest are donated to various community organizations including JoeAnna’s House and Pathways Abilities, among others. In a previous interview with Capital News, Soranno said she disagreed with the way the funds were raised.

“It’s very interesting because the charity that they are donating to, JoeAnna’s house, helps people who are suffering at Kelowna General Hospital, but the way that they’re donating that money is through selling class one carcinogens to people which causes cancers and disease in people who could end up in JoeAnna’s House,” she said, referring to a World Health Organization report that found processed meats cause cancer.

READ MORE: RCMP cut free activists chained to Kelowna bank, placed under arrest

Soranno said she and the others are looking forward to the court proceedings.

“This trial is actually about putting the pork industry on display, showcasing the rampant legal and illegal animal abuse, the lack of transparency and accountability and how the system to protect animals is failing them in the worst possible way.”

Even as she waits to appear in court, Soranno is still fully committed to changing the way farm animals are treated, encouraging others to sign petitions to help the fight.

The group has also launched a GoFundMe campaign to help pay for their legal proceedings.

READ MORE: Animal rights activist defends Monday’s Ribfest protest

– with files from Ben Lypka and Tyler Olsen


Twila Amato
Video journalist, Black Press Okanagan
Email me at twila.amato@blackpress.ca
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