Protestors gathered at the Abbotsford BC SPCA branch on Sept. 3 following the court appearance of the four people accused related to activities at Excelsior Hog Farm in 2019. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)

SPCA responds to claims from accused in Excelsior Hog Farm case

Marcie Moriarty of the BC SPCA states that protestors should not be blaming her organization

The BC SPCA has fired back at some of the accusations made by the protestors and those accused in the Excelsior Hog Farm case.

Thursday morning (Sept. 3) was the first appearance for Amy Sorrano, Jeff Luke Rigear, Roy Makoto Sasano and Nicholas George Schafer. The group now face a total of 21 charges, including several counts of break-and-enter and mischief related to both the April 28, 2019 protest and other incidents prior to the protest.

RELATED: Four Abbotsford pig-farm activists now facing 21 charges after first court appearance

The BC SPCA investigated the original claims of animal abuse submitted by Soranno and her group, but in May 2019 they said there was insufficient evidence to support the recommendation of charges to Crown counsel. The case was reopened in August 2019, but the same decision was made to not pursue charges against Excelsior.

A press release stated that protestors believe the BC SPCA has not held Excelsior Hog Farm accountable for their proven criminal animal cruelty and the charges against the activists are partially due to the SPCA turning in whistleblowers, despite assurances of anonymity and with no warrant from the police.

RELATED: Four activists face charges linked to 2019 Abbotsford hog-farm protest

The group also believes that the BC SPCA is working with the police and the factory farms, rather than on behalf of the animals.

Marcie Moriarty, the chief prevention and enforcement officer for the SPCA, stated that the legality of the video that showcased the alleged abuse at Excelsior Hog Farm made it difficult to proceed with charges.

“The BC SPCA did open an investigation into the Excelsior Hog Farm as soon as it received a complaint about potential abuse on the property,” she told The News. “The reason the case was not able to move forward was not because of lack of will or effort on the part of SPCA investigators, but because the sole evidence in the case was a video that was obtained illegally. Crown Counsel advised the BC SPCA on two separate occasions during the investigation that charges could not proceed since the illegal video – the sole evidence – would not be admissible in court.”

RELATED: BC SPCA says no charges against Abbotsford hog farm

Moriarty also said protestors should instead be focusing more on pork producers if they want to make a change in the industry.

“They’re choosing the wrong organization to be focusing their questions to,” she said. “It’s interesting to not have these questions directed to pork producers.”

She pointed to the cattle abuse case from Chilliwack Cattle Sales that led to charges in 2017 as an example of video being obtained legally and successfully.

RELATED: Jail time for Chilliwack men who violently abused dairy cows

“It’s something where we have to make a strategic decision on – should we be putting countless hours and resources of donor dollars towards a file that is not going to be accepted successful,” she said. “Or would we rather focus our attentions on advocacy efforts that would see changes.”

Moriarty said she and everyone in her group were appalled by what was displayed in the video, but that the actions used by the protestors in the Excelsior Hog Farm case work against those who want government changes to protect animals.

“We absolutely do not condone what was in that video but our enforcement role and our advocacy roles are separate,” she said. “They [protestors] are confusing the matter and unfortunately that is what takes away time and effort from the work we do – which they may not see as good enough but I prefer to work where we can collaborate on efforts with the police and government agencies to promote animal welfare.”

She added that she was disappointed to see protestors gather at the Abbotsford SPCA branch on Sept. 3.

“It breaks my heart to see individuals who are working hard and simply caring for animals having to be met at work and be told they’re terrible people who are letting animals down,” she said. “It makes me sad that the young people working for us were exposed to that. We are all trying to speak for animals, but we may do it in a different way than them. It may be slower than some people like but I’d argue that there are ways to work together to see progressive changes that benefit animals and don’t bring innocent people like shelter workers into a public display.”

The next court appearance for the four accused is scheduled for Nov. 2.

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