Media Releases

Court Strikes Down Ontario Law Banning Hidden-Camera Farm Investigations

TORONTO—Animal Justice is celebrating a landmark court decision that strikes down much of Ontario’s agricultural gag law (Ag-Gag law), which aimed to silence whistleblowers and journalists who work undercover to investigate animal cruelty in the meat, dairy, egg, and fur farming industries. Joining Animal Justice as applicants in this case were freelance journalist Jessica Scott-Reid, and animal advocate Louise Jorgensen of Toronto Cow Save.

Passed in 2020 by the Ford government under pressure from lobby groups, the Security from Trespass and Protecting Food Safety Act was enacted to conceal animal cruelty on factory farms by making it illegal for a whistleblower to use a false pretence to get a job at a farm or slaughterhouses. Prior exposés by undercover workers in Ontario have received national media attention, and exposed severe and unlawful animal abuse on farms, like animals being mutilated, beaten and kicked, and improperly killed. Exposés have also shone a light on cruel routine practices such as confining mother pigs in gestation crates, and grinding male chicks alive in macerators. 

Following undercover exposés, farms have been convicted and fined. The last undercover investigation in Ontario, released days before the Ag-Gag law came into effect, was conducted at a factory pig farm by Animal Justice; the farm later pleaded guilty to two animal cruelty offences.

Justice Markus Koehnen of the Superior Court of Justice found that the Act and its Regulation restrict undercover investigations in purpose and effect. Justice Koehnen ruled that multiple provisions of the Regulation are unconstitutional as they violate the right to freedom of expression guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The provisions that effectively ban undercover work at farms and slaughterhouses were declared of no force and effect. The ruling is suspended pending a future hearing between the parties.

The lawsuit also challenged restrictions on protests outside slaughterhouses where advocates photograph animals inside trucks on their way to be killed, but the Court upheld provisions that restrict interacting with animals inside trucks. 

“This groundbreaking ruling is a decisive victory against Ontario’s egregious Ag-Gag law, and sends a clear message that no industry is exempt from scrutiny and accountability,” said lawyer Camille Labchuk, executive director of Animal Justice. “Undercover investigations are a vital tool to show the public the truth about how animals live on farms and die in slaughterhouses. These exposés are critical to holding industries to account for unlawful abuse, and help make the case for stronger laws to outlaw some of the worst forms of mistreatment. We look forward to the opportunity to resume our investigative work to expose and end animal suffering in the food system.” 

“This is an important decision that rightly puts freedom of expression and freedom of the press above industry interests,” said Jessica Scott-Reid. “My hope is that other jurisdictions with similarly unethical Ag-Gag laws will take note. Consumers and animals in Canada deserve more transparency and accountability from this largely hidden industry, not less.”

“I am thrilled that undercover investigators and whistleblowers will be able to resume their important work, revealing the truth of what is being done to animals behind the walls of farms and slaughterhouses,” said Louise Jorgensen of Toronto Cow Save. “The citizens of Ontario have the right to know what they are supporting in order to make ethical choices. The animals are depending on it.”

Ag-Gag laws in the US have been struck down as unconstitutional by judges in six states. This case was the first constitutional challenge to a Canadian Ag-Gag law, although a similar law was passed 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.

In addition to lawyers from Animal Justice, the applicants were represented by counsel from Stockwoods LLP and Beddoes Litigation.


A copy of the decision is available here.


Camille Labchuk
Executive Director
[email protected]