The first of several demonstrations and vigils to commemorate the anniversary of the death of an animal rights activist in front of a Burlington pork processing plant began Friday morning.
Mourners gathered at the Fearmans Pork Plant near Appleby Line and Harvester Road where Regan Russell was struck and killed by a truck entering the facility on June 19, 2020.
The then 65-year-old Russell was a regular fixture for Toronto Pig Save, joining scheduled “vigils” outside the plant, which typically sees activists feed water to the pigs as they’re taken to slaughter on hot days.
“It’s kind of difficult being here, but I’ve come back many times to support the activists and to also stand where Regan can no longer stand,” said Russell’s husband Mark Powell in a Facebook post for Animal Save Movement.
“She stood here so often, sometimes alone, but she stood here. As her sign said, ‘to be the voice for the voiceless.'”
Animal rights advocates around the world are expected to hold vigils and other actions in Russell’s memory in addition to a fundraiser for Ontario sanctuaries.
Local protestors will remember Russell through a pair of stands on Friday and Saturday against the passing of a recent “Ag-Gag” law.
Russell was one of many who spoke out against the Food Supply Protection Act, which received royal assent in June 2020 and came into force in early September. The law is supposed to limit interactions between the public and any element of the food supply business including farm animals, truckers and farmers.
Agriculture Minister Ernie Hardeman proposed the law in 2019, saying it would help ensure the biosecurity of the province’s food supply while also striking a balance that ensures the right to protest.
The bill was introduced after high-profile incidents in recent years headlined by Toronto resident Anita Krajnc‘s effort in 2015 to give water to pigs on a truck taking them to slaughter at a pork processing plant in Burlington.
Penalties under the law include a fine of up to $15,000 for a first offence and $25,000 for subsequent offences tied to trespassing or obstructing vehicles carrying farm animals.
The Hamilton/Burlington chapter of the SPCA (HBSPCA) posthumously recognized Russell in September with the Dr. Jean Rumny award, given to individuals that have shown a commitment and dedication to animals and the community served by the HBSPCA.
“Regan was curious, passionate and tireless in her aspiration for a humane world,” said CEO Marion Emo in a release.
The SPCA said Russell received the award for her work with a “Stop the Seal Hunt” group in 1977 in addition to finding homes for dogs and cats within the community for decades.
Dr. Jean Rumney was one of Canada’s first women veterinarians who became a champion for animals.
A family memorial in Hamilton is also expected outside the home where Russell lived on Saturday afternoon prior to demonstrators meeting again at the plant in Burlington between 6 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.
“She had been doing this for 43 years, getting Bristol board and a magic marker and taking a stand,” Powell said.
“And on June the 19th, it was well, it was her last stand, wasn’t it? She can’t be here any longer. So we are and we will continue to be here and we will continue to be wherever oppression against animals is happening.“