Notes from the Austrian Animal Protection Trial – Week 11



Protest outside the Austrian Embassy in Washington DC, USA

International Support in Washington DC...

Staff and volunteers from the American animal rights organisation FARM held a protest outside the Austrian Embassy in Washington DC this week. For an hour activists gathered and marched in front of the Austrian Embassy chanting messages and carrying large signs reading “Stop Austrian Repression”, “Activism is NOT a crime”, “Protect Free Speech” and “Drop all Charges – Shame on Austria!”. During the demonstration activists approached the embassy to deliver a letter to the embassy's public information officer, Wolfgang Renezeder. Friendly and understanding, Mr Renezeder was aware of the worldwide protests and agreed to make sure that the letter was delivered to the Ministry of Justice in Vienna.

The activists said they will continue to take a stand and speak out against the Austrian government until this injustice is stopped and the charges have been dropped against the 13 individuals.

...and in France too

Supporters in Paris organised a solidarity gathering where around forty people took part with signs in different languages and lots of chanting.

Media criticise the trial

The conservative leaning Austrian national newspaper “Die Presse” this week published a very scathing article covering the trial. Following the headline “Austria's most bizarre trial” the article referred to the proceedings as “juristically grotesque” criticising, amongst other things, the judge's restriction of the defence's questioning.

Judge throws two defendants out of the court room

This week the judge saw fit to exclude two of the accused from the days proceedings. She threw them out of the court room after they had made comments about the trial being unjust.

Tense atmosphere

Hefty disputes broke out this week between the defence and the judge as she continually interrupted and disallowed their lines of questioning. During renewed questioning of one of the Kleider Bauer owners the defence attempted to establish from him whether he knew if profits had fallen during the demonstrations outside the stores. This is a critical point in terms of the charge because proving this would indicate that the anti-fur campaign intended to financially ruin the company. The witness continually evaded the question and was eventually prevented from having to answer by the judge declaring the question as irrelevant. When defence produced documents proving that profits had not fallen she stated that they were not part of the files and were therefore not permissible.

Fur farmer

A fur farmer was heard as witness this week. Animals had been liberated from his farm on several occasions in the 90s. Not only were the defendants either not yet animal rights active at that time or not in the country, but also the campaign against this farm at that time was from the animal protection organisation Four Paws who are not charged in this case.

Pig farmer

In relation to an incident where pigs were released from sheds on a pig farm in 2008 the farmer was called as a witness to testify that the defendant suspected had committed animal cruelty. The farmer claims that several pigs were found dead and that after the pigs were rounded up and put back in the shed they became aggressive. The defence produced photos of the dead pigs which not only clearly showed that the corpses had been decaying for some time but also that the pigs had died inside the shed. The defence argued that the pigs had died long before any release took place and also that as the aggression took place as the pigs were brought back inside, this showed that it was the farmer himself who was guilty of animal cruelty.

Defendants accused of new animal rights offences

The judge presented an additional new report from the police which detailed how someone had left a device in a Kleider Bauer store at the end of March, after the trial had started, which was meant to trigger the sprinkler systems. The sprinkler systems were not activated. Police claim in the report that the defendants are to be seen as suspects because:

1. It was a Kleider Bauer store
2. It happened after the trial had started
3. It was claimed by the animal liberation front
4. The note claiming responsibility was written in both English and German
5. The content of the note bore resemblance to the content of an interview given to media by one of the defence lawyers!

How should this trial ever end if every new animal rights offence is added to the case?


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© Keith Mann