An Ontario court has heard that pigs given cool water on a hot day en route to slaughter became part of the food chain despite an animal rights activist's efforts to draw attention to their parched plight.
The Crown called Jeffrey Veldjesgraaf as its first witness on Wednesday in a mischief case against animal rights activist Anita Krajnc after she gave water to pigs in the back of a tractor trailer in June 2015 in Burlington, Ont.
Veldjesgraaf, who was hauling the pigs to slaughter, said it wasn't unusual for Krajnc and other animal rights activists to offer water to the pigs, and the Fearman's Pork slaughterhouse has never turned away the animals he hauls there because of it.
Veldjesgraaf testified in front of a packed courthouse Wednesday. In attendance were about 50 people, two identical tiny therapy dogs and a toy pig that oinked when it was squeezed.
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Before court, a group of animal rights activists from Krajnc's group — Toronto Pig Save — and the international group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals held a peaceful rally.
They carried signs with various slogans calling for people to stop eating meat. Others wore shirts advocating for veganism.
Krajnc attended court wearing a pink shirt with a picture of a pig on it under her pantsuit.
During cross-examination, Veldjesgraaf said the animals are given water before and after they're loaded onto the trucks, but he won't feed them while they're in transit.
Shortly after the incident, the pigs' owner filed a complaint with police, who charged Krajnc with mischief last fall.
Krajnc maintains she did nothing wrong by giving the pigs water, and says she continues to do so to this day.
According to regulations, Veldjesgraaf testified he isn't required to provide food or water to the animals until they've been in transit for 36 hours.
Court heard that there are guidelines for the transportation of livestock, including that they should be protected from "undue hardship" and that the floor of the truck should be lined with hay or wood chips.
When the defence asked Veldjesgraaf if guidelines for transporting animals is aimed at ensuring the welfare and safety of animals, he responded yes, adding that it's also for the welfare of "the food chain."
He also testified that since the 2015 incident, police will occasionally stop his truck along the side of the road, providing an opportunity for the activists to approach and give water to the animals.
During the 2015 incident on a warm day, the driver got out of the truck and began arguing with Krajnc and her friend, who were waiting for the pigs on a roadway median.
Court saw video of the incident.
"Have some compassion, have some compassion!" Krajnc yells in the video to the truck driver.
"Let's call the cops," the driver says, holding his phone.
"Call Jesus," Krajnc says as she continues to allow the pigs to drink the water.
"Yeah, no. What do you got in that water?" he asks.
"Water," Krajnc says.
"No, no, how do I know?" he says.
"Trust me," she says.
Perhaps the most contentious line in the video comes from Veldjesgraaf. He says to Krajnc: "They're not humans, you dumb frickin' broad!"
During cross-examination, the truck driver said he wasn't being particularly careful with his words, but agreed when the defence suggested his meaning was "clear as day."
On Wednesday, court heard that Veldjesgraaf told police that the activists "affect (his) livelihood" and that "something needs to be done" about them.
Defence attorney James Silver asked the driver if he and the farmer who owned the pigs, Eric Van Boekel, had a plan to silence the activists.
Veldjesgraaf quickly denied there was any such plan.
Krajnc's lawyers told court that they would argue the activist was acting in the public good, and therefore not breaking the law.