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Abbotsford farmer says 2019 protest at hog farm was ‘hard to deal with’

Calvin Binnendyk testifies at trial for 3 charged with mischief and break-and-enter
Protesters with the Meat the Victims organization ran onto the Excelsior Hog Farm property in Abbotsford on April 28, 2019. The trial is now underway for three people who have been charged in relation to the incident. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)

An Abbotsford farmer whose property was the scene of a large protest in April 2019 testified Tuesday (June 28) that the incident was difficult for him and his family.

Calvin Binnendyk, who owns and operates Excelsior Hog Farm on Harris Road with his two brothers, said the incident “was hard to deal with.”

“Just the whole morale of it – putting us in the media, saying pretty much (that) we’re criminals, and we’re just the victims really,” he said.

“I had quite a few sleepless nights, and it was rough on my family, especially my wife, even though she doesn’t even work in the barn. She took it really hard, and she still has a hard time sleeping to this day.”

Binnendyk took the stand on the second day of the trial for Roy Sasano, Amy Soranno and Nick Schafer. The trio face a total of 14 charges of break-and-enter and mischief at the hog farm on Feb. 9/10, March 5 and April 28, 2019.

RELATED: Crown says 3 accused placed hidden cameras on Abbotsford hog farm weeks before protest

Binnendyk told the court that the family found hidden cameras in three areas of the farm on March 2019. They took them down and reviewed the footage, which showed the animals and the daily activities on the farm.

Binnendyk said he and his son were at work on the farm on April 28, 2019, when he got a call from his wife, saying there were protesters on the property.

His brothers and dad, who started the farm 45 years ago, were also alerted and were on scene.

Binnendyk said they saw a “bunch of people piling into the barn.” He said they were wearing “white suits,” which have previously been described as coveralls.

He said the family told the protesters that they were trespassing and to get off the property. Instead, they ran into the breeding barn.

“They set up camp there and pretty much stayed all day,” Binnendyk said.

He said the activists – mostly from the organization Meat the Victims – stayed until after the media tour they had requested was finished.

Binnendyk said, under cross exam by Sasano’s lawyer, Joe Kallorian, that the farm manages 13,000 to 15,000 pigs.

Kallorian asked whether Excelsior has a program in place for herd management health and whether they are familiar with the laws – such as in the Criminal Code and in the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act – pertaining to animal treatment.

Binnendyk said they follow CQA (Canadian Quality Assurance) policy in terms of how they move and feed the animals and treat them when they’re sick, but he didn’t know the specifics of the laws.

“I know you’re not allowed to abuse animals,” he said.

RELATED: Crown drops charges on one of four Abbotsford hog protestors

Kallorian asked Binnendyk about whether farm workers had ever kicked the animals.

“We will guide them with our feet, but we don’t kick them … We don’t kick pigs,” he said.

Kallorian also questioned whether the farm practises “low-stress pig-handling methods.” Binnendyk said they are gentle with the animals, and know to “be calm and move them in smaller groups.”

Kallorian stated that if the workers aren’t familiar with the laws, how can they be sure they are following them?

“As a farmer, I do like to work every day. I was born and raised on the farm. I just know what I know,” Binnendyk said.

The SPCA investigated the farm after the protest and opted not to recommend charges.

The cross exam was slated to continued Wednesday (after press deadline). The trial is scheduled to run until July 21 at B.C. Supreme Court in Abbotsford.

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(From left) Roy Sasano, Amy Soranno and Nick Schafer speak to the media Monday morning (June 27) on the first day of their trial at B.C. Supreme Court in Abbotsford. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)

Vikki Hopes

About the Author: Vikki Hopes

I have been a journalist for almost 40 years, and have been at the Abbotsford News since 1991.
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