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B.C. animal rights activists appeal convictions, jail sentences

“We will continue to fight for animal rights and to hold accountable those responsible for animal cruelty," said activist Amy Soranno
Amy Soranno and Nick Schafer speaks to media

Two Kelowna-based animal rights activists are appealing their convictions and sentences after they were handed a 30-day jail sentence last fall for occupying a Fraser Valley hog farm.

Amy Soranno and Nick Schafer were sentenced in October after they were convicted at trial in Julyof break-and-enter and mischief, connected to a protest at Abbotsford's Excelsior Hog Farm in April 2019 that saw around 65 activists enter the farm while live streaming online.

During sentencing, Justice Frits Verhoeven called the protest a “carefully planned, organized and orchestrated mass invasion and occupation” and said the pair “incited and encouraged many other persons to break the law.”

But last week, lawyers for Soranno and Schafer filed an appeal with the BC Court of Appeal, arguing Justice Verhoeven erred in law by blocking them from showing the jury video evidence of what they describe as animal cruelty at the farm.

“Furthermore, Justice Verhoeven prevented Soranno and Schafer from arguing that the hog farm had engaged in unlawful animal abuse, eliminating any possibility of arguing that Soranno and Schafer believed their actions to be lawful,” a press release from the pair states.

The appeal states that "while the protest was upsetting to the farm’s owners, [Soranno and Schafer] caused no damage and did not impede access to the property generally."

They also say the Abbotsford police lost and destroyed “crucial evidence central to the activists’ case,” which included video footage from hidden cameras that had been placed in the farm.

“Instead of ensuring the preservation of this evidence during an active investigation, the SD cards mysteriously went missing while in police custody,” the press release states.

“Then, in August 2019, for no apparent reason, the Abbotsford police ordered the destruction of all three cameras the activists were accused of planting in the hog farm.”

Despite her conviction, Sorrano says she'll continue to fight for animal rights.

“Animal agriculture is an entirely hidden industry, with zero transparency and accountability,” Soranno said in the press release.

“Because the BCSPCA cannot make unannounced inspections of animal farms without a warrant, their ability to prevent or curb animal abuse is extremely limited. Even when the BCSPCA is provided with video evidence of abuse, like the footage of Excelsior Hog Farm, they still fail to prosecute the abusers.

“We will continue to fight for animal rights and to hold accountable those responsible for animal cruelty.”

An appeal hearing is expected to be held some time in the coming weeks.

The pair were granted bail pending their appeal and remain out of custody.