Drivers are increasingly nervous delivering pigs to the Sofina Foods plant in Burlington after online threats against them have increased since the death of a protester at the plant.
Tyler Jutzi of Brussels Transport says the company has had to take down its website and social media feeds after the “number of harassing and threatening messages became too much to take”.
A protester, Regan Russell, died after being struck by a truck driven by a Brussels Transport driver. The driver was recently charged with careless driving causing death.
Why it matters: The outcome of the court case could create a precedent relating to how protesters interact with livestock transport vehicles.
Jutzi, vice president of Brussels Transport, says that the threats made against the driver are “terrible. Some of the stuff these activists are allowed to say on Facebook without consequence is disgusting.
“They threatened to blow up trucks, burn us to the ground,” he said in a recent interview. “You have sleepless nights when that kind of stuff is going on.”
Brussels drivers are called murderers, compared to Hitler and have water bottles thrown at them.
The name of the driver has not been released, and Jutzi says it needs to stay that way due to the threats made against him.
He says the driver is “a great young man, a great driver, and incredibly safe driver. But this is going to stick with him forever. He has to worry about his family at home. We are trying to keep him off social media so he doesn’t see all the terrible things threatened.”
The company has installed cameras and increased security at its yard, but that didn’t stop someone from trying to take pictures of the licence plates of drivers’ cars.
Jutzi started a GofFundMe page to raise funds for the drivers’ legal defence.
“As soon as the charges were announced, we knew legal costs of fighting them will be huge. He needs support to fight this, have the best lawyers behind it. It will be a precedent-setting case for the whole industry.”
Brussels Transport, located in hog-rich Huron County and not far from Perth County, also a large hog producer, is the largest transporter serving the Sofina plant, the largest hog processing plant in Ontario. The company delivers 50 truckloads a week to the plant and so has had to manage going through protests three days a week.
Jutzi is frustrated that more isn’t done to limit protesters. He says that it is harassment in the workplace and it wouldn’t be allowed in other sectors.
“The truck is our workplace, we work in it 13 hours a day. I’m not sure why we have not been taken seriously,” he says.
He also says he hopes that Bill 156, recently passed by the Ontario legislature and waiting for royal assent as the final step before it become law, will help. The bill aims to protect animal production zones from protesters and trespassers.
“We need to continue to push people to call MPPs. Make sure they know how important Bill 156 is to write into law. We need to pressure MPPs to get it there quicker.”
Jutzi says he has no problem with people being free to protest in Canada, but they need to do so from a safe distance.
He says the media has focused on the activist side of the story and the farm community needs to be more vocal.