31 October 2011

Finland to go after animal welfare activists for filming inside factory farms

In December 2009, Finnish animal welfare group Justice for Animals made public the results of a two-year undercover investigation of pig farming practices in the country among 30 different farms.

They uncovered images and video of pigs and piglets crammed into confined, dirty spaces, many with fight wounds and open sores. Some pigs were found dead, rotting in pens, with others gnawing at them; others were discovered half-alive, covered in fleas, flies, and dirt.

Finnish politicians and agricultural officials promised change, but two years later, the change activists expected isn't the kind they hoped for.

Helsingin Sanomat, one of Finland's largest newspapers, tells us that "according to the inspections carried out at the farms, no animal rights regulations had been violated. Instead, two activists who took part in filming the controversial videos, 27-year-old unemployed vegan chef Karry Hedberg and 24-year-old political science student Saila Kivelä, will be charged for ten cases of disturbance of the peace and 12 cases of aggravated defamation."

The prosecution is demanding around 180,000 euros between both activists. According to district prosecutor Kari Lamberg, the two allegedly "implied that crimes would have been committed on the farms."

However, Hedberg disagrees: "At no stage did we ever suggest that the activities carried out at the pig farms were illegal. On the contrary: We wanted to show that this sort of operation is legal in Finland, despite the fact that it upsets many people."

While these types of cases are currently rare, that may not be the case in the future, especially in the U.S. Two states so far -- Florida and Iowa -- have proposed bans on photography inside factory farms.

Jonathan Reynolds
Jonathan is a freelance writer and blogger residing in upstate New York.

Photo credit: cc: flickr.com/photos/photodeus