An animal rights group has released a video it claims shows "abused, injured and rotting pigs" at a hog farm in Abbotsford, B.C.
Animal Justice says the images were leaked to the group after being taken at Excelsior Hog Farm between April and June of this year. It says they show dead and rotting pigs throughout the farm, crushed piglets in crates, staff jabbing pigs with a metal rod and hit with plastic boards, and hogs with hernias, prolapses, bloody lacerations, and open wounds.
Marcie Moriarty, chief of protection and outreach services for the BC SPCA, confirmed Animal Justice sent the group an email Thursday laying out its allegations against the farm. She also viewed the six-minute video clip released by the group.
“It contains some very disturbing images,” said Moriarty. “And on the face of that video, it appears to depict violations of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, potentially the Criminal Code.”
“And without a doubt, it shows practices that are clearly not in accordance with industry-endorsed national farm animal codes of practice.”
Calls to Ray and Calvin Binnendyk, the brothers who own Excelsior Hog Farm, went unanswered. A family member hung up on Glacier Media after a reporter identified himself and asked for comment on the allegations.
Glacier Media also reached out to the BC Pork Producers Association, where Ray Binnendyk is listed as a director, but did not receive a response by publication time.
Not clear whether video will be admissible in court
Moriarty said it will launch an investigation once the BC SPCA receives the full complaint and raw video. That investigation would likely pursue two things: have breaches of animal welfare standards occurred and is it occurring now.
Both can be hard to prove in court. In 2019, Animal Justice submitted a complaint to the BC SPCA with video evidence purporting to show cases of animal cruelty at the Excelsior Hog Farm.
A BC SPCA investigation later found no violations after it visited the farm. And Crown counsel later recommended not to pursue charges related to the video because it was deemed to have been obtained illegally and would not be admissible in court, Moriarty said.
She declined to speculate on whether the latest video could be treated as evidence in court.
“We'll do a full investigation and put it before Crown counsel,” she said.
Farm owner says rights group spread 'false accusations'
The latest allegations come as federal lawmakers debate amendments to the Health of Animals Act to limit access to farms as a measure to maintain bio-security.
Ray Binnendyk defended the farm from past allegations when he testified last month at a session with the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, where MPs discussed amendments to the act.
Binnendyk told the committee “false accusations online had a significant emotional impact on our family” and that “the perception that people have about us has all been spread by lies and stuff that are not true.”
In 2022, two activists who occupied the farm as part of a protest against animal cruelty were sentenced to 30 days in jail after a court convicted them on charges of criminal break and enter and mischief. They have since appealed their convictions. Investigations into the hog farm have not led to any charges.
“Having protesters break into our barn, install cameras and spread false information on the internet about our family farm was an invasion of our privacy and a deeply distressing experience,” Binnendyk told the committee.
“Although all our family and friends saw through the lies, it did take a few years before we stopped getting the one-finger salutes while driving pigs to market.”
The latest footage appears to show individuals kicking hogs and slamming a piglet on the floor. In other clips, piglets allegedly living in cramped conditions are shown crushed to death under their mothers.
No audit system to report animal abuse on farms
The cases against the activists — dubbed the 'Excelsior 4' for the four people initially charged — have since become part of a wider call for the B.C. government to replace the BC SPCA with a more transparent, accountable, and effective enforcement agency.
On Oct. 21, activists disrupted an SPCA fundraiser in Vancouver calling for better oversight of animal cruelty on farms.
“We need to better enforce anti-cruelty laws in the animal agriculture industry instead of criminalizing activists like the Excelsior 4, who only want to bring attention to abuse going on in the industry,” group member Zoe Peled said at the time.
BC SPCA spokesperson Kaila Butler told Glacier Media at the time the organization remains committed to doing everything it can, "under the limitations of the law, to advocate for the advancement of animal welfare across the province and throughout Canada, including in the farmed animal space.”
Others have raised questions whether current laws do enough to allow oversight on farms. On Oct. 5, Erin Martellaani, the campaign manager for animal advocacy at the Montreal SPCA and Humane Canada, told the agricultural committee there are currently “no adequate mechanism in place to report abuse on farms.”
She said employees and farmers are not required under the Health of Animals Act to report all forms of abuse. Martellaani told lawmakers veterinarians or suppliers who go on site regularly “have a financial interest in maintaining a good business relationship with the farm.”
Currently, B.C. does not provide third-party inspections of farms to ensure they are complying with animal welfare standards, added Moriarty.
“We don't feel there's an adequate government-funded third-party auditing system,” she said.
With files from Jeremy Hainsworth