Animal Justice’s executive director Camille Labchuk testified before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food to sound the alarm on Bill C-275, a proposed national agricultural gag law (“ag gag law”) aiming to cover up animal abuse in the meat industry and silence whistleblowers. Animal Justice is calling for the bill to ideally be rejected, or amended to remove some of the most troubling aspects of it.
The committee meeting was held on October 5, 2023, and is part of the study stage of the bill—an important step before the legislation reaches its final vote. Bill supporters claim that Bill C-275 is about preventing disease risks on farms by punishing trespassers, but the truth is that it aims to protect the reputation of the meat industry by shutting down free expression. It targets animal advocates and undercover investigators with massive fines and even jail time.
The government’s own data shows that most disease outbreaks on farms are caused by poor biosecurity practices by farms themselves, or by exposure to wild animals carrying viruses. Whistleblowers have never once caused a disease outbreak. Yet the bill lets farmers completely off the hook if they don’t follow biosecurity guidelines and cause a disease outbreak. It’s obvious that the real goal of this bill is to prevent concerned citizens from documenting systemic cruelty in the meat industry.
Camille told lawmakers at the committee meeting why Bill C-275 fails to address real disease risks, conceals widespread cruelty to animals, stifles whistleblowers and undercover workers, and must be fiercely opposed.
History of Canada’s Ag Gag Laws
Since 2019, ag gag laws have been passed in Alberta, Ontario, Manitoba, and PEI. These troubling laws vary, but generally make it illegal or legally risky to reveal hidden animal cruelty at farms, slaughterhouses, and transport.
In the last Parliament, Bill C-205, nearly identical to Bill C-275, was introduced and subsequently amended so that it would apply to anyone, including farmers, who enters a farm in a manner that could expose animals to disease. The Bill then died when the 2021 federal election was called.
Most ag gag laws violate free expression—a core right enshrined in Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Animal Justice is currently suing Ontario to defeat its unconstitutional ag gag law, and our first court hearing is set to take place at the end of the month.
Exposés Are Essential Tools for Truth
Canada lacks provincial and federal laws that regulate the treatment of animals on farms, and standard farming practices are usually exempt from general animal cruelty laws. The government doesn’t proactively investigate farms either and lets the industry subject animals to horrific conditions and treatment behind closed doors, with no repercussions.
Over the past decade, numerous undercover exposés have peeled back the curtain on what really happens to the hundreds of millions of animals who are raised and killed for food every year in Canada.
The vast majority of these cows, pigs, and chickens are confined in large numbers in nightmare factory farms that resemble large, filthy warehouses. It’s common for farms to cut off pigs’ tails and slice off hens’ beaks without pain relief, lock up hens and pigs in tiny metal cages for nearly their entire lives, and take newborn baby cows away from their mothers. Modern farms deny these sensitive animals of everything that makes life worth living, and subject them to short lives of pure misery.
To make matters even worse, abuse is regularly filmed on Canadian farms. In 2021, Animal Justice released gut-wrenching footage showing cows being beaten with canes and pitchforks at an organic dairy farm in British Columbia. In 2020, our investigator documented mother pigs being kicked and beaten by workers at a pig farm in Ontario, while conducting the last legal undercover exposé before the province’s ag gag law went into effect. Numerous other exposés by groups including Mercy For Animals have shown a pattern of violent abuse in Canada’s farms and slaughterhouses.
Canada already has some of the worst animal protection laws in the Western world, and ag gag laws push this country only further into darkness.
You Can Help Stop Ag Gag Laws
Use your voice to oppose Canadian laws that harm animals and whistleblowers! Join Animal Justice by contacting committee members and asking them to reject ag gag Bill C-275 and to instead pass stronger laws for farmed animals.