Bill 156 Will Conceal Cruelty on Farms and Punish Whistleblowers

TORONTO – A coalition of Canadian animal advocacy organizations held an online news conference on Monday morning as Ontario legislative committee hearings were set to begin for Bill 156. The organizations screened shocking footage of animal cruelty that is standard practice on Ontario farms—all of which would be illegal to gather if Bill 156 becomes law.
 
Bill 156 is draconian “ag gag”-style legislation that would further conceal illegal animal abuse on farms. The bill targets whistleblower employees with massive fines, and would effectively shut down hidden-camera exposés in factory farms and slaughterhouses. Ag gag legislation similar to Bill 156 has been struck down by courts in multiple U.S. states as unconstitutional, and Canadian legal experts believe that Bill 156 violates the Charter-protected right to free expression.
 
Since 2013, multiple hidden-camera exposés of Ontario farms and slaughterhouses have revealed illegal animal abuse and appalling conditions, and have led to animal cruelty prosecutions and convictions.
 
Camille Labchuk, lawyer and executive director of Animal Justice, stated: “Animal suffering is pervasive in the farming industry, and most people are shocked to learn that the government doesn’t regulate or oversee the welfare of animals on farms in Canada. Ontario should create binding legal standards to protect farmed animals, instead of trying to shut down and punish the brave employee whistleblowers who are often the only source of information about what animals endure behind the closed doors of factory farms and slaughterhouses. This dangerous bill is a disaster for animals, worker safety, and public health.”
 
Riana Topan, farm animals campaign manager for HSI/Canada, stated: “More than 30 ag gag bills have been defeated across the United States in the past decade, and similar efforts by Big Ag to cover up cruelty and illegal behaviour have been struck down in IdahoWyomingUtahIowa and Kansas, on the basis that laws restricting or prohibiting whistleblowing activities on farms violate the First Amendment right to free speech. This Bill requires robust debate due to its questionable nature, apparent violations of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and far-reaching implications for other industries, which simply cannot take place while Ontario remains in a state of emergency.”
 
Miranda Desa, Canadian counsel to Last Chance for Animals, stated: “The Ford government is making it illegal to be a whistleblower. Animals will be put at greater risk. People could be exposed to zoonotic diseases. And people will be prevented from knowing the truth.”
 
Colombe Nadeau-O’Shea, donor relations manager with Mercy For Animals, stated: “Sadly, much of the cruelty Mercy For Animals has documented, in over 75 exposés, is widespread standard practice and completely legal. Exposing such violence against innocent animals routinely pushes companies to adopt more humane practices. These exposés are vital for influencing changes in government and corporate welfare policy. Rather than helping factory farms hide their cruel practices, Mercy For Animals Canada urges the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to vote no on Ontario Bill 156 and instead put legislative measures in place to prevent and prosecute animal cruelty.”
 
Hearings on Bill 156 will take place virtually on June 8-9 before the Standing Committee on General Government and will be streamed online on June 8 here.

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For more information, contact:

Camille Labchuk
Executive Director, Animal Justice
camille@animaljustice.ca

Riana Topan,
Campaign Manager, Humane Society International/Canada
rtopan@hsi.org
 
Miranda Desa
Counsel, Last Chance for Animals
miranda@desalaw.com
 
Colombe Nadeau-O’Shea
Donor Relations Manager, Mercy For Animals
colomben@mercyforanimals.org