By Keith Roulston
Time flies quickly, and so I had nearly forgotten about the case of Andrew Blake when our co-publication, The Citizen carried the story about the end of his legal case in a recent issue.
Blake, you may recall, was the driver of a Brussels Transport truck carrying pigs to the Fearmans Pork processing plant, (owned by Sofina Foods) in Burlington one day in June, 2020. The plant was regularly in the news in those days because it was routinely protested by animal rights activists.
Getting into the plant was a nightmare for drivers like Blake because truckers were often blocked by protesters like Regan Russell, a woman in her 60s described as a “fiercely devoted activist” to this and many other causes.
Regan and others from Toronto Pig Save, wanted to shut down the plant and “save the pigs”. They regularly slipped water to the captive pigs inside the trucks which had been weaned from food and water because they were scheduled to be slaughtered. Regan was close enough to the truck that when Blake thought he was clear to drive into the plant, she was run over and killed.
The case made headlines at the time. Three years later it was almost forgotten to the general public.
Not to Blake or to those associated with Russell, of course. So in late March, both sides followed closely as Blake pled guilty to careless driving causing death. The plea resulted in a $2,000 fine and a 12-month term of probation.
Crown attorney Michael Godinho said it was “very reasonable” that Blake might have been acquitted if the case had gone to trial. He added that the case was “as close as it gets to a momentary lapse in judgement or to reasonable diligence”, adding that “the case was far from a slam dunk”. In an agreed-upon statement of facts from the case, the crown and defense attorneys agreed that the driver should have been aware that Russell was near the path of the truck but there was no evidence to suggest Blake intentionally struck Russell.
A report stated that the truck being driven by Blake, based on security footage at the packing plant, stopped at the intersection and Blake waited four minutes, calling police over for help as protesters blocked the driveway to the plant and fed water to the pigs in the truck, according to an agreed statement of facts. When the light was green, Blake began to make a turn into the plant once the driveway had cleared. Russell then stepped into the driveway as the truck entered the intersection and was struck, the agreed statement of facts said.
Though the criminal case is finished, it’s not the end of the messy business. This past January, Russell’s husband Mark Powell filed a $5 million civil law suit against Blake, Brussels Transport and Sofina Foods. That case remains unheard.
The whole situation is sad. A woman is dead. Her husband is without his wife. Blake, Brussels Transport and the Fearmans plant have been through three years of heartache and will go through yet more before the civil case is settled.
And there is no end in sight. Fanatical animal rights believers will continue to treat the lives of pigs, cattle, goats and sheep and any other farm animals as if they are equal to human lives. They will continue to think cattle, goats or sheep kept for milking are abused. They will continue to sneak into barns to take videos of what they consider animal cruelty. They will release captive mink into the wild, though they are not equipped to survive.
Ironically, if no farmer kept animals for meat, milk or hides, and they ate only a vegetarian diet, evidence shows that we would have poorer soil – or maybe they think the solution is growing food in high-rise buildings in cities as some television shows demonstrate. ◊