In only a few weeks, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world as we know it. There is much uncertainty, but the good news is that so-called “ag gag” laws in Canada won’t be moving ahead—for now. These dangerous laws are aimed at making it illegal for whistleblowers to go undercover to expose hidden animal cruelty and food safety concerns on farms.
Provincial legislatures and the federal Parliament are occupied with the pandemic response, and no other legislative business is on the agenda until the crisis is over—including passing ag gag laws.
Ontario’s ag gag law, Bill 156, passed one vote in the legislature in March, and was set to move to hearings on March 27 and 30. Bill 156 is now on hold, along with proposed ag gag laws at the federal level, and in B.C., Manitoba, and Quebec.
Transparency in our food system is more important than ever before. The COVID-19 pandemic is a wake-up call, reminding us that human health is deeply connected to our relationship with animals, and to the state of our planet. The coronavirus originated in a wildlife market in China, where thousands of wild animals are sold, dead or alive, for food and other purposes.
But a new virus could have easily emerged from an overcrowded factory farm in Canada, where thousands of chickens or pigs are confined in inhumane, filthy conditions. Inevitably, one day it will. Industrial farming and wildlife markets create the perfect breeding grounds for deadly new viruses and bacteria that can jump from animals to humans with devastating effects.
Ag gag laws are designed to conceal animal cruelty from the public, giving farms a free pass to illegally abuse animals behind closed doors. But they also make it more difficult to expose food safety violations, and shine light on the horrific, squalid conditions on modern farms that lead to dangerous new viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens that cause, disease, illness, and death.
Today, more than ever before, we know that our work on behalf of animals is important—not only to protect animals from suffering, but to protect our health, too. That’s why Animal Justice continues to fight against ag gag laws that would make it illegal for whistleblowers to tell the public the truth about the conditions on Canadian farms.
This fight is far from over. When the COVID-19 crisis subsides, we fear that government and factory farms will keep pushing troubling ag gag bills. But Animal Justice will be there, working to overhaul a farming system that hurts animals and human health. The stakes are too high to give up—for both humans and other animals.
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