Animal rights activist killed while holding vigil outside Ontario slaughterhouse
Published Friday, June 19, 2020 1:14PM EDT Last Updated Friday, June 19, 2020 6:22PM EDT
A Halton Police cruiser can be seen outside a slaughterhouse in Burlington, Ont. (Andrew Collins)
TORONTO -- A longtime animal rights activist was fatally struck by a truck on Friday while she was protesting outside a slaughterhouse west of Toronto, her friends said.
Regan Russell, a member of Toronto Pig Save, died after being hit by a transport truck full of pigs on its way to Fearman's Pork, a processing plant in Burlington, Ont., said Anita Krajnc, the group's co-founder.
"She was in front of the truck when it ran over her," said Krajnc, who did not witness the incident but had heard from other activists who were there at the time.
The death of the 65-year-old activist comes just two days after the province passed controversial legislation that hiked fines for trespassing on farms and food-processing facilities and made it illegal to obstruct trucks carrying farm animals.
Dozens of activists gathered at the plant Friday to mourn their friend.
"She was a sophisticated, well-educated woman who was very strong and always determined to do the right thing," Krajnc said.
Russell had often joined Toronto Pig Save as they gave water to pigs on transport trucks at the entrance of the plant, she said, and Friday was no different.
"She supported Black Lives Matter, Indigenous rights and she was an intersectional vegan who understood the importance of equality in terms of racial justice and in terms of animal equality," Krajnc said.
A spokeswoman for Sofina Foods, owner of Fearman's Pork, said the company is fully cooperating with a police investigation into the death.
"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the individual and her family. This is a tragedy and we extend our sincere condolences to them," Daniele Dufour said in a statement.
"We also recognize the impact that this event had on our employees and have been providing support to them in these very difficult times."
Camille Labchuk, the executive director of Animal Justice, said Russell was a lifelong animal advocate.
"This is so sad," Labchuk said through tears. "She was a beautiful human who didn't deserve this."
A large number of activists have shown up at the scene, where the group plans to hold an all-night vigil in honour of Russell and the pigs she loved, Krajnc said.
"We have asked management to get some of these pigs in the truck to a sanctuary in her name," she said.
Halton police said they received a call around 10:20 a.m. about a pedestrian who had been struck by a transport truck. They said the woman was pronounced dead at the scene.
The group has long protested the slaughter of pigs at Fearman's Pork and were there Friday to protest the recent passage of a law activists have dubbed the "ag gag" bill.
Toronto Pig Save regularly holds "vigils" outside the facility, and on hot days activists will feed water to the pigs as they're taken to slaughter.
Temperatures reached 30C Friday and much of southwestern Ontario was under a heat warning by Environment Canada.
"We have had many close calls here," Krajnc said. "We have asked for trucks to stop for two minutes so we can bear witness, say goodbye to the pigs and give them water."
The group drew international headlines in 2015 when Krajnc was arrested while giving water to the pigs on a hot day at the same spot.
She was later found not guilty of criminal mischief when the case went to trial.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 19, 2020.