An animal welfare activist has died while attending what’s been described as a “vigil” outside a southern Ontario hog packing plant, as new provincial limits on such activity around livestock are set to take effect.
Halton Regional Police Service reported receiving a call Friday morning that a person had been “struck by a transport truck” at Harvester Road and Appleby Line in Burlington, outside Sofina Foods’ pork plant.
A female in her 60s was pronounced deceased, police said Friday afternoon, but provided no further details on the collision. CBC on Friday reported viewing video from the scene that appeared to show the victim lying beneath a livestock truck.
The Fearmans Pork plant, which Sofina has owned since 2012, slaughters and processes up to 50,000 hogs per week and has been the scene of activist actions for several years.
A criminal mischief charge was dismissed in 2017 against activist Anita Krajnc following a June 2015 incident outside the plant, in which she reportedly gave what she said was water from a bottle to pigs through the vents in the walls of a livestock trailer stopped at a red light.
Krajnc, the founder of what’s now called the Animal Save Movement, identified the victim of Friday’s collision as Regan Russell, “an animal advocate since 1979, (who) attended vigils weekly for years.”
In a separate release, Krajnc said Russell’s death follows Thursday’s royal assent for Ontario’s Bill 156 — new provincial legislation largely dealing with on-farm trespass but also covering what the province describes as other “unauthorized interactions with farm animals.”
Among other activities, the bill prohibits people from “interfering with a motor vehicle that is transporting farm animals and from interfering or interacting with the farm animals in the motor vehicle without the prior consent of the driver of the motor vehicle.”
Six separate Ontario farm and agrifood groups on Wednesday hailed Bill 156’s passage, citing what they described as increased activity by protestors on farm properties and at processing plants.
Friday’s protest outside the Fearmans plant “was one of the last opportunities for a vigil before (Bill 156) becomes law,” the Animal Save Movement said in its release, describing its activity outside the plant that day as “peaceful.”
Animal Save Movement and an affiliated organization, Animal Justice, said Friday they “condemn any attempt by government or industry to use this senseless death to justify restricting rights to protest.”
Harvester Road was closed for several hours for investigation and has since re-opened, Halton Police said Friday. The department’s release did not say whether any arrests or charges were involved or pending against anyone relating to the collision.
The victim’s next of kin have been notified, police said, and victim services staff came to the scene for “support and assistance to all involved.”
Halton Police also asked for anyone who witnessed the incident or has dash cam footage from the area at the time of the collision to contact its collision reconstruction unit. — Glacier FarmMedia Network