Protest at The Canadian High Commission, Wellington

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On Friday, animal rights activists from all around the country, representing various New Zealand Animal Save Movement chapters, as well as guests from SAFE New Zealand and Direct Action Everywhere New Zealand, will be protesting the Canadian High Commission in Wellington, demanding accountability for the death of Animal Save activist Regan Russell.

Russell, an animal rights activist since the late 1970s was a constant, peaceful presence outside Fearmans Pork, a pig slaughterhouse in Burlington, Ontario, Canada that kills ten thousand pigs every day, “until she was killed by a transport truck in late June,” says protest co-host, author M. C. Ronen. “She stood at the gates, showing compassion and offering water to the overheated, parched and suffering pigs inside transport trucks as they were heading to their deaths, and she was brutally run over”.

Russell’s death has deeply shaken the animal rights activism world. “Over a month had passed, and only now the local police decided not to press criminal charges against the driver, which is absolutely mind boggling. Killing an activist and walking away scot-free. What stops activists from being deliberately targeted now? We are demanding the Canadian government show accountability for that decision,” says Ronen.

These concerns are heightened by the fact that Russell’s death happened just one day before the draconian ag-gag law known as Bill 156, came into effect in Ontario. Under the new law that was pushed through by a strong animal farming lobby, activists are forbidden from exposing animal welfare issues on farms and slaughterhouses. Russell was one of many who objected to this law that they say is unconstitutional.

Animal Rights activists in New Zealand make a worrying link between the events in Canada and the recent court case against Mike Luke, a farmer caught on hidden camera repeatedly and violently beating cows. He was fined a mere $3000. “All the evidence collected by animal advocates group Farmwatch was deemed unlawful by the judge,” explains Ronen. Because animal advocates trespassed in order to obtain the evidence, the judge excluded it, without this decision being appealed by MPI. Animal rights activists are worried by the precedent this case might set for future animal abuse cases.

“In the same way that we demand accountability from the Canadian government, we also demand our own government to create an independent crown entity for animals, separate from MPI” says Ronen. “We demand justice not just for Regan Russell but for all animals.”

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