EDMONTON – National animal law organization Animal Justice is sounding alarm bells about Bill 27, a draconian new law that passed in Alberta on Thursday after being rushed through the legislative process in only 10 days without proper scrutiny.
Bill 27 radically overhauls Alberta’s trespass laws, directly targeting individuals who seek expose cruelty behind the closed doors of industrial farms. Bill 27 massively increases the maximum fine for trespassing from $2,000 for a first offence, to up to $200,000 and even jail time.
Disturbingly, the new law also makes it an offence to be on property if permission was obtained by false pretences, punishable by up to $200,000 for an organization or corporation. This provision will affect the ability of whistleblowers who record and expose animal cruelty on industrial farms, as failing to disclose on a job application that a worker is affiliated with an animal protection organization could be considered a false pretence. This dangerous restriction could also affect journalistic investigations, and organizations and individuals that go undercover to expose wrongdoing and poor conditions in places like factories, nursing homes, and daycares.
This provision may well violate the freedom of expression provisions guaranteed under section 2(b) the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It is nearly identical to various state-level restrictions passed in the United States termed “ag gag” laws because they make it more difficult to expose animal cruelty on farms. In the United States, animal advocates have successfully struck down similar laws as unconstitutional in states including Idaho, Utah, and Iowa.
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 or oversight of the conditions farmed animals are kept in.
“Animals are locked up behind the closed doors of industrial farms in Canada without any government-imposed animal welfare standards, and virtually no public oversight,” said lawyer Camille Labchuk, executive director of Animal Justice. “Whistleblowing employees are often the only way the public has to monitor the conditions animals endure on modern farms. In 2019, citizens expect meaningful oversight for farmed animals. Alberta’s attempt to conceal horrific animal cruelty may well be unconstitutional, and similar laws passed at the behest of the farming industry have repeatedly been struck down in the United States. This bill is a dangerous precedent.”
In 2013, an undercover exposé of an Alberta egg farm revealed hens, crammed for life into tiny wire cages, deprived of their basic needs and suffering without veterinary care. In 2014, an undercover exposé Alberta pig transport revealed animals forced to endure gruelling conditions, including pigs too sick and injured to even stand being shocked with electric prods, kicked, and beaten.
For more information, contact:
Executive Director, Animal Justice
Photo: Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals
Join the Animal Justice mailing list