WARNING: This story contains disturbing video and descriptions of animal treatment
Roughly 200 animal rights activists descended on an Abbotsford hog farm Sunday to protest alleged abusive treatment of the animals inside.
About 50 people entered the barn at Excelsior Hog Farms Sunday morning, with more than 100 more supporters gathering outside the property singing and waving signs.
The activists were brought to the farm on buses, wearing black shirts that read “Meat the Victims.”
The protest was sparked by a video released by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) Tuesday showing several graphic images of pigs crammed into pens and unable to move.
DISTURBING CONTENT: PETA video allegedly shows conditions inside Excelsior Hog Farms
Some of the pigs are sickly and covered with tumours, while others lay dead on the ground with piglets walking around and on top of them.
Dan Moskaluk, former RCMP officer and one of the organizers of the protest, said the protesters had come together from across North America to “speak out against the cruelty of the agriculture industry and to stand in solidarity with the animals.”
“The truth has been hidden from the public and we believe people are making choices that are contrary to their values,” Moskaluk read from a prepared statement. “Most people are against animal cruelty, and would not want to support this industry if they actually knew what was truly happening.”
Abbotsford police removed the protesters from inside the barn in the early afternoon, but no one was arrested. Sgt. Judy Bird said an investigation will be launched into alleged mischief, break-and-enter and trespassing.
Before the activists were removed, members of the media were brought into the farm by police and the farm’s owners, who conducted a tour to show the conditions depicted in the video were inaccurate.
“Some of the pictures were staged,” co-owner Ray Binnendyk said. “We believe they were staged because some of those pictures couldn’t have been from our farm. We’re not sure.”
Binnendyk highlighted the pigs’ ability to leave their pens on their own to walk around freely, saying Excelsior is one of the first farms in B.C. to adopt the practice.
The B.C. SPCA said Sunday it is assisting the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) with an investigation into the farm and the validity of the video.
The CFIA has not yet confirmed it is conducting an investigation. A spokesperson for the B.C. SPCA’s animal cruelty unit could not be reached for additional comment.
WATCH: (Aired Feb. 23, 2018) Adopted SPCA pet pig ends up on dinner plate
Binnendyk said he and the farm were co-operating with investigators, adding the owners raise the animals to the best of their ability and they are proud of what they do.
“I find it’s very hard when someone puts out information that’s incorrect about how we do things here as a family farm,” he said. “It’s very disturbing to see what kind of traction this gets in the media for people that are implicating us as criminals.”
The farm’s veterinarian, Josh Waddington, said he checks on the pigs’ welfare every two to three months, which is standard practice.
He admitted the video shows “the worst light of the farm,” but added the pigs shown in the video suffering from injuries and illness are confined to the farm’s hospital area, and those animals are being treated.
“That’s like walking into the hospital and taking a picture of the average emergency room and saying it represents the general population,” he said.
Waddington said the video raised concerns that are being addressed, including releasing pigs from pens early and general cleanliness.
— With files from Paul Johnson and the Canadian Press