A highly-anticipated multi-day court challenge has kicked off today, where Animal Justice lawyers are fighting to overturn Ontario’s unconstitutional ag gag law that punishes people who go undercover to expose animal cruelty in farms, slaughterhouses, and transport trucks. This is the first time in Canadian history that an ag gag law is being challenged in court.
While the Animal Justice legal team presented arguments before the judge, over 100 animal advocates gathered outside the courthouse to show their support and to speak up against ag gag laws.
Ontario’s ag gag law has makes undercover investigations at farms illegal, puts whistleblowing workers in danger if they try to reveal illegal cruelty they witness, and makes it risky to even gather outside slaughterhouses to bear witness to animals being transported to their death. Not only does this law blatantly conceal abuse, but we believe it also violates free expression, a guaranteed right under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Animal Justice joins two applicants in the case whose work on behalf of animals is jeopardized by Ontario’s ag gag laws: freelance journalist Jessica Scott-Reid, and animal advocate Louise Jorgensen with Toronto Cow Save.
Ag Gag Laws: A New Threat in Canada
Ag gag laws are a dangerous new development on Canadian soil. This harmful legislation originated in the United States in the 1990s when undercover videos showing horrific cruelty and abuse of cows, pigs, and chickens started making the nightly news. The meat industry responded not by cracking down on the farms that abuse animals, but by pushing governments to pass ag gag laws to punish people who film the cruelty. So far, these laws have been struck down as unconstitutional in six states, including Iowa, Kansas, Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, and North Carolina.
In 2020, Ontario passed ag gag laws via Bill 156, and Alberta, Manitoba, and PEI have also passed ag gag laws in recent years. A federal ag gag bill is also currently in Parliament, which is being fiercely fought by Animal Justice and our supporters.
Shockingly, meat, egg, and dairy farms are not actively regulated or inspected by the government. Animal abuse on farms normally only surfaces when brave undercover investigators and whistleblowers document what is taking place, such as Paragon pig farm in Ontario, which pleaded guilty to cruelty after an investigation by Animal Justice revealed shocking cruelty. Governments should pass laws to protect animals on farms, instead of passing laws to punish people who expose abuse.
What’s Next In Court
The Ontario ag gag law hearing runs Monday, October 30 through Wednesday, November 1, 2023. Animal Justice makes submissions on Monday, and on Tuesday, intervenors including Centre for Free Expression, Regan Russell Foundation, and Animal Alliance of Canada will make their case.
Anyone is welcome to attend the hearing at the Superior Court of Justice, 330 University Avenue, Toronto, in courtroom 5-1. The proceedings will also be live-streamed here (passcode: 904565).
Animal Justice will continue sharing updates on our website, social media, and to our email list. Follow along as we recap this historic case to defeat ag gag laws.