An Ontario pig farm has pleaded guilty to animal cruelty and fined $20,000 after hidden-camera footage from Animal Justice revealed mother pigs being kicked in the face and beaten, piglets being castrated and having their sensitive tails sliced off without pain relief, and an illegal c-section conducted on a live, conscious pig.
The shocking abuse first aired on CTV’s flagship investigative affairs program, W5, in a program called ‘Farm Secrets’.
An Animal Justice whistleblower worked undercover at Paragon Farms in Putnam, Ontario in the fall of 2020. Wearing a hidden camera, the whistleblower recorded troubling footage of animal abuse, mother pigs confined inside tiny gestation crates, pigs with injuries, filthy conditions, and workplace health and safety violations. Just days after the footage aired, Ontario “ag gag” laws came into effect, making it illegal to go undercover at a farm or slaughterhouse.
Provincial authorities laid charges against the farm for violating provincial animal welfare laws, and Paragon pleaded guilty in 2023.
Paragon’s two corporate entities (Ontario Management Group Inc. and Great Lakes Pork Inc.) were convicted of two offences under the Provincial Animal Welfare Services Act.
The first was for an illegal c-section, which the investigator filmed on their first day on the job. A pregnant pig on the farm was severely ill. Instead of simply euthanizing her, the farm did what’s known a “slash and grab” by slicing open the pig and ripping out her unborn piglets, in hopes they would survive outside the womb, and could be sold for meat.
In this case, the farm bolted the suffering mother pig twice in the head, but didn’t take steps to confirm that she was dead or insensible to pain before she was sliced open. An animal welfare expert who reviewed the video confirmed that her skin twitched when she was cut open, indicating that she could feel the knife. In what looks like a scene from a horror film, her piglets were then torn out of her, and thrown onto the filthy, concrete floor.
The farm also pleaded guilty to castrating and cutting the tails off of piglets without giving the babies any pain relief. In the video, the young piglets are heard squealing loudly as they are sliced with a knife. The farm admitted that it stopped purchasing pain medication for the piglets earlier that year, and only resumed after authorities opened an investigation.
Although the maximum fine per offence is $500,000, each corporate entity was fined only $5,000 per offence, for a total of $20,000.
Shockingly, prosecutors did not ask the court to ban the farm from owning or caring for animals in the future. Nor did they ask for court-ordered animal welfare training for management, or the installation of cameras in the barn to monitor conditions.
Undercover investigations like the one Animal Justice conducted at Paragon are one of the only ways to hold farms to account for appalling conditions, since governments don’t regulate or monitor animal welfare conditions on farms. Yet instead of taking action to address the rampant suffering on farms, provinces like Ontario have passed ag gag laws to cover up the cruelty. The Paragon investigation was the last hidden-camera exposé in the province before its ag gag laws came into effect, and shows the power of undercover work to expose suffering and hold farms to account for breaking the law.
Animal Justice is challenging Ontario’s ag gag laws in court starting October 30, 2023, as is currently working to stop a dangerous federal ag gag Bill C-275, that’s working its way through the legislative process. Please join us in speaking up against ag gag laws in Canada!