A Ryerson professor who admits to spray painting an animal rights message at the University of Guelph appeared in a Guelph court Tuesday, and is due back in three weeks.
Paul Bali, a sessional instructor in the department of philosophy, received a disclosure of the Crown’s case and a new court date for Oct. 13. He said his appearance took all of 30 seconds.
“It was one of those first days where it’s pure formality,” Bali told The Ryersonian. “Just a deferral to a later date to give me a chance to retain legal help and look over the disclosure.”
Bali was charged with mischief under $5,000 after, he admits, he spray painted the word “abattoir” — another word for slaughterhouse — on a stone sign at the entrance to the U of G campus. The incident took place on July 28, and Bali turned himself in the following day.
He admits that he broke the law and agrees to accept whatever punishment he receives.
“Honestly, my intention is not to dispute the charge. I mean, I told the full story to the police and they have that all on record. It would be legally insane to dispute that. What I did was clear and I don’t deny that.”
But Bali said that direct action, including property damage, is justified in the face of what he said is the massive amount of animals killed in university research. Bali said the University of Guelph is “an epicentre of agricultural research” and added that their aim is to turn livestock into “maximally efficient bearers of value.”
The immediate trigger for his action was a talk he attended on the Guelph campus, where a speaker estimated the number of animals killed by gassing on campus. The university has not officially released those numbers. The Ryersonian contacted the university to request figures on the number of animals they euthanize, but a media representative declined to comment.
“What they are doing is arguably murder,” Bali said, “mass murder.”
Spray painting on the Guelph campus is not Bali’s first brush with the law for civil disobedience. Last November, he said he participated in a protest that blocked trucks carrying cattle to slaughterhouses at the St. Helen’s Meat Packers in the Junction. Bali told The Ryersonian that he was also charged with criminal mischief in that case. Those charges were later dropped
He has also composed a nearly 90-page poem on animal rights, entitled enter the animal, muted, dressed.
Bali said he is not yet sure if he will hire a lawyer for his present case, but is “leaning toward” representing himself. He said he feels that there are two trials: one focusing on his actions, and another where he’s trying to hold society to account for its treatment of animals.
“The action came out of a sense that there is an injustice taking place,” he said. “The University of Guelph is on trial, also our whole culture and our whole society is on trial, including myself. There’s no question that we’re destroying this world. We should all be putting ourselves on trial.”
He admitted it’s unlikely he’ll get much of a chance to address animal welfare in his court case, which will focus on the mischief charge.
A spokesperson from Ryerson University said the school is aware of the incident but said they are unable to discuss confidential employee matters. Bali is a member of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, and the spokeperson told The Ryersonian that Bali’s collective agreement has no set policy or provisions for dealing with his case.
Bali says he does not regret his act, and already anticipated that it could have some impact on his career.
“I really do love teaching here, it would be terrible if I lost my job,” he said. “But how concerned you are about these sorts of things, like your career, your calling, your job, depends on how bad you think things are.”