Animal rights activist, 'average dude' cleared of third charge linked to filming mink farms

·3 min read

The acquittal of an animal rights activist on breaking and entering charges suggests tolerance for protestors, says his lawyer.

“I think it sends out the message that this is a heavy mallet in dealing with protestors and activists like Malcolm,” said Toronto criminal law specialist Gary Grill. “It’s an extremely inelegant fit for what transpired here.”

Malcolm Klimowicz was cleared of his third break-in charge related to a mink farm following a three-day trial in Kingston. He was earlier found not guilty of breaking and entering a Springwater Township mink farm, but guilty of trespassing. A third charge involving another farm was withdrawn.

While Klimowicz conceded he trespassed upon the farms to shoot video of the minks, Grill said that’s a far cry from doing criminal harm.

Klimowicz, who works as a sleep technologist in Montreal, vows to continue his campaign to fight for animal rights. He said he is buoyed by the move by Saks Fifth Avenue earlier this week to remove fur from its stores and a movement in British Columbia calling for a moratorium on mink farms.

And while his videos of the Ontario farms brought attention to the issue, he said they didn’t have the entire effect he had hoped for.

“I am really disappointed that nothing was actually done for these animals,” Klimowicz said. “The animals are suffering and nobody’s doing anything about that.”

While the criminal charges have been dealt with, Klimowicz said he still faces a civil suit filed by an Oshawa-area farm.

In the latest decision dated April 7, Justice Julianne Parfett of the Ontario Superior Court said the key issue in the latest case was whether his videotaping of the mink at the Frontenac Township farm constituted mischief.

“In my view, in the circumstances of this case, the videotaping of the mink barns does not constitute mischief. There was no interference with the conduct of any activity in the barn. There is no evidence that the mink were disturbed by what occurred," Parfett wrote in the decision. "There is no evidence that the mink suffered any harm.

"Indeed, the evidence indicates that Mr. Freeman was completely unaware that anyone had entered on his property until he saw the video through the media,” Parfett added.

The decision, said Klimowicz, allows people “to bear witness to the horrors of factory farming without a worry of a break-and-enter charge for simply witnessing what’s going on.”

He maintains that animals are suffering with impunity to the farmers and there is essentially no oversight of the farms.

His goal was to bring attention to the treatment of minks that are farmed for their fur.

Klimowicz said he managed to raise $55,000 through private donations and a GoFundMe campaign for his defence.

Grill described Klimowicz as “an average dude.”

“He is deeply, deeply moved by the pain and suffering of these creatures. ... He is just one of those selfless people who put themselves in harm’s way for the benefit of others," the lawyer said.

Marg. Bruineman, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, barrietoday.com