Media Releases

A Win for Press Freedom: Undercover Farm, Slaughterhouse Investigations Now Legal in Ontario

TORONTO—Following a judge’s order signed late Thursday afternoon, undercover investigations in the meat, dairy, egg, and fur farming industries are once again legal in Ontario, in a huge victory for journalistic freedom.

The order from Justice Markus Koehnen of the Superior Court of Justice gives effect to his ruling last month in a constitutional challenge by Animal Justice to Ontario’s so-called “Ag-Gag” law (agricultural gag) the Security from Trespass and Protecting Food Safety Act, which aimed to shield industry from whistleblowers.

The law made it illegal to use a false pretence to get a job at a farm or slaughterhouse—a necessary step to get an unvarnished view of secretive industry practices and expose hidden animal cruelty. Animal Justice was joined by freelance journalist Jessica Scott-Reid, and animal advocate Louise Jorgensen of Toronto Cow Save who were co-applicants in the case.

Justice Koehnen found that multiple provisions of regulations made under the Act were unconstitutional as they violated the right to freedom of expression guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The landmark court decision was a stunning rebuke of a law meant to silence whistleblowers and journalists who work undercover to investigate animal cruelty. Prior to the passage of Ontario’s Ag-Gag law, undercover exposés garnered national attention and led to fines and convictions.

“It’s fitting that World Press Freedom Day marks the return of vital journalistic freedoms to Ontario,” said lawyer Camille Labchuk, executive director of Animal Justice. “Once again journalists and whistleblowers have the tools to uncover animal abuse and hold industry to account. Animal Justice looks forward to resuming our investigative work in Ontario to ensure hidden animal cruelty is brought to light.”

There are no farmed animal welfare laws in Ontario, and no proactive inspections of farms—leaving the public and law enforcement largely in the dark about troubling conditions, and making undercover investigations one of the only tools to hold farms to account for unlawful animal cruelty.

The last undercover investigation in Ontario before the law came into effect was conducted at a factory pig breeding farm by Animal Justice; the farm later pleaded guilty to two animal cruelty offences, including for castrating and cutting the tails off piglets without pain relief, and for an illegal c-section on a conscious mother pig. 

While Ag-Gag laws in the US have been struck down as unconstitutional by judges in six states, this case marked the first constitutional challenge to a Canadian Ag-Gag law. A similar law is presently on the books in Alberta. Manitoba and PEI also have laws designed to conceal cruelty on farms, and a proposed federal Ag-Gag law (Bill C-275) is now in the Senate.

A copy of the court order can be found here.


Josh Lynn
Public Relations Manager
[email protected]

Camille Labchuk
Executive Director
[email protected]