“The Excelsior 4” appeared in Abbotsford provincial court on Monday morning (Nov. 2) to plead not guilty to a combined total of 21 charges. (Submitted photo)

“The Excelsior 4” appeared in Abbotsford provincial court on Monday morning (Nov. 2) to plead not guilty to a combined total of 21 charges. (Submitted photo)

Abbotsford hog-farm protestors plead not guilty to 21 charges

‘Excelsior 4’ make second appearance Monday in provincial court

Four people charged in relation to a protest in April 2019 at Excelsior Hog Farm in Abbotsford pleaded not guilty Monday morning (Nov. 2) to a total of 21 charges.

Amy Soranno, Jeff Rigear, Roy Sasano, and Nick Schafer – who refer to themselves as the “Excelsior 4” – made their second appearance in Abbotsford provincial court. Their charges include break-and-enter and mischief.

Soranno said the charges are an opportunity.

“We look forward to our trial, where we will further expose the rampant violence and suffering in animal agriculture, and the complicity of our justice and enforcement systems,” she said.

After their court appearance, the group joined supporters for a demonstration at the Vancouver headquarters of the BC SPCA. They are demanding that the agency “use its authority to take action against Excelsior for its well-documented abuse of animals.”

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“At the very least, the BCSPCA should be publicly condemning Excelsior Hog Farm, and pressuring BC Pork to remove Excelsior’s owner, Ray Binnendyk, from their board of directors,” Soranno said in a prepared statement.

“They should also warn the entire industry that what Excelsior did is unacceptable and won’t be tolerated. Instead, the BCSPCA has breached its own confidentiality policy by turning in a whistleblower to the police.”

The group said they hope the government will take action over animal-cruelty investigations.

The Excelsior 4 were charged in July of this year after dozens of activists stormed the Excelsior Hog Farm on Harris Road on April 28, 2019. The protest took place less than a month after PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) released hidden-camera footage which it said showed horrific conditions of animals at the farm.

The farm’s owners have disputed the claims, and said they had found hidden cameras on the property on March 23, 2019.

The BC SPCA investigated the original claims of animal abuse submitted by Soranno and her group, but in May 2019 they said there was insufficient evidence to support the recommendation of charges to Crown counsel. The case was reopened in August 2019, but the same decision was made to not pursue charges against Excelsior.

The SPCA has said it does not condone what was in the video but they could not move forward with the case because the sole evidence was a video that was obtained illegally and would not be admissible in court.

RELATED: SPCA responds to claims from accused in Excelsior Hog Farm case