The trial of a man accused of breaking into a Kingston-area mink farm several years ago to expose what he alleges to be inhumane conditions concluded Friday.
On Aug. 1, 2017, Malcolm Klimowicz, an animal rights activist with Kitchener Ontario Animal Liberation Alliance (KOALA), filmed himself entering Stonehenge Industries, a mink farm owned by Walt Freeman in Battersea, Ont.
Klimowicz later posted a video of the conditions inside the barns where the minks were kept.
“I found all sorts of animal cruelty. The cages were covered in feces, sludge puddles filled with urine,” Klimowicz said in the video released in early 2018.
On Friday, the last day of Klimowicz’s trial, his lawyer Gary Grill argued that his client should be acquitted of his break and enter charge because he did not cause any damage, did not steal anything and had no intention of mischief upon entering the farm. Klimowicz was simply there to gather information, Grill argued.
Grill said that both the Crown and the defence agree Klimowicz’s intention was to create a “public outcry” and to “end fur farming in this country,” but Grill argued that this is not a criminal act.
“It’s lawful conduct. It’s the same type of actions that occurs in picketing. Our courts have addressed the value of that speech and that dialogue already,” Grill said.
The Crown, represented by Holly Chiavetti, argued that Klimowicz acted like a “vigilante” when he broke into Freeman’s barn to “surreptitiously record” Freeman’s private property in order to post it online, and put Freeman’s business at risk.
Chiavetti also noted that Klimowicz offered up Freeman’s name and address in the video, asking people to come and protest outside his property, where he also lives.
The defence argued that Freeman did not have the same right to privacy in his barn, a commercial business, as he would in his home, especially since mink farming is a regulated industry that could be inspected at any time.
But Chiavetti argued that not even the state would be lawfully allowed to “to break onto the property in the cover of night,” and that Freeman has a right to not have his private property filmed without his knowledge or permission.
This is not the first time that Klimowicz has entered an Ontario mink fur farm to expose allegedly inhumane conditions. He has faced similar trials in Collingwood, where he was convicted of trespassing and in Oshawa, where his charges were dropped.
After receiving closing arguments, the judge decided to reserve her decision and give the verdict electronically at an unspecified date.