CALGARY – National animal law organization Animal Justice is denouncing plans by Alberta Premier Jason Kenney to target animal protection advocates with unprecedented fines and jail time. Meanwhile, there are no regulations in Alberta, or anywhere else, that set welfare standards for the treatment of animals confined in farms, and no public inspections of the conditions farmed animals are kept in.
At a press conference on Thursday, Kenney announced plans to introduce astronomical fines for trespass to agricultural facilities, ranging up to $25,000 for an individual, $200,000 for an organization, and up to one year in jail. Disturbingly, Kenney also announced plans to target whistleblowing employees who record and expose animal abuse on farms. Alberta also plans to hire a special prosecutor to target animal advocates, even though there is no special prosecutor dedicated to prosecuting animal cruelty offences.
The move comes after animal advocates visited a turkey farm in southern Alberta last month, drawing attention to the miserable lives endured by farmed animals like turkeys.
“Citizens are rightfully outraged that governments have failed to police animal welfare conditions in the farm industry,” said lawyer Camille Labchuk, executive director of Animal Justice. “In 2019, animals deserve far better than the fox guarding the hen house. There are no welfare standards, no public inspections, and no meaningful oversight for the tens of millions of animals confined behind closed doors on farms. Instead of this unprecedented crackdown on compassionate citizens, Alberta should create laws to protect farmed animals from abuse and suffering.
Trespassing on a farm or elsewhere is already an offence, and anyone engaged in trespassing can be charged.
The proposed new legislation appears to share many elements of so-called “ag gag” laws, passed in some states, that criminalize whistleblowers who expose animal cruelty on farms. Ag gag laws have been struck down as unconstitutional in multiple states, including Iowa, Utah, and Idaho.
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