WINNIPEG – National animal law organization Animal Justice and animal protection groups Humane Society International/Canada and World Animal Protection are calling on the public and legislators to reject Bill 62, The Animal Diseases Amendment Act. Bill 62 is an example of an agricultural gag, or “ag gag” law, designed to restrict peaceful protests and to conceal animal suffering and neglect in trucks transporting farmed animals to slaughter. Although the Bill was introduced four months ago, the text of Bill 62 was kept secret until late yesterday afternoon. It is one of several bills the province has tabled that appear to include ag gag language, though their contents have not all been made public yet.
Bill 62 mirrors wording in Ontario’s recently passed ag gag law, and would make it an offence to “interact” with farmed animals in transport. It targets individuals who protest on public property outside of slaughterhouses near trucks transporting animals. Many of these protestors take photographs and videos showing the poor conditions in which animals are transported in order to raise awareness about the mistreatment of farmed animals. This evidence can also be used to submit complaints to law enforcement authorities when regulatory standards are violated.
“Canada has some of the worst animal transport rules in the industrialized world,” said Kaitlyn Mitchell, Winnipeg-based Animal Justice staff lawyer. “Instead of protecting farmed animals forced to endure days-long journeys without food, water, or rest, the Manitoba government has introduced Bill 62, an ag gag bill designed to keep animal suffering hidden from public view. Manitoba’s proposal to restrict peaceful protest rights and cover up the conditions in which animals are transported should be deeply disturbing to us all. It is not only dangerous to animals, but may well violate Manitobans’ Charter-protected rights to freedom of expression and peaceful protest.”
“It is entirely inexcusable that the Manitoba government is considering legislation that would give special protections to the industrial animal agriculture industry, which is already under-regulated and well-hidden from public view,” said Riana Topan, campaign manager for farm animal welfare with HSI/Canada. “Ag-gag laws are dangerous because they not only perpetuate animal abuse on industrial farms, but also threaten workers’ rights, consumer health and safety, and environmental protections, by preventing whistleblowers from exposing unethical practices. In a free and democratic society, the public must be permitted to share information about a system as fundamental as our food supply. At a time when consumers are demanding more transparency in our food system – not less – we are urging provincial decision-makers to not move forward with any ag-gag laws.”
Bill 62 would also make it an offence to provide any food or water to a farmed animal in transport or on farm property without the consent of the driver or owner of the facility. Individuals could be fined up to $10,000 or imprisoned for up to a year for committing the offence of giving food or water to a farmed animal, even when the animal is showing clear signs of distress due to thirst, malnourishment, or heat exhaustion.
In Canada, animals can be transported for days at a time without food, water, or rest. Millions arrive dead each year, with many freezing during long journeys in frigid temperatures or dying from heat exhaustion on hot summer days. Footage obtained by concerned citizens in Manitoba has shown feather-bare chickens and turkeys transported in freezing temperatures, pigs crowded in trucks, and filthy conditions, among other disturbing images.
Ag gag legislation in multiple U.S. states has been struck down by the courts as unconstitutional. When Ontario introduced similar ag gag legislation last year, 43 constitutional and criminal law experts from across the country warned the government that the law was an unconstitutional violation of Canadians’ right to freedom of expression, and would restrict the rights of consumers to receive important information to inform food purchasing choices. Animal Justice is currently challenging the constitutionality of Ontario’s law, including its prohibition against “interacting” with farmed animals in transport.
Find more information on Canadian ag gag laws here.
Staff Lawyer, Animal Justice
Campaign Manager, HSI/Canada
Campaign Manager, World Animal Protection