TORONTO – National animal law organization Animal Justice is sounding alarm bells about new Ontario legislation that will target animal advocates who seek to expose animal abuse and neglect in industrial farming. The Security from Trespass and Protecting Food Safety Act will be introduced this afternoon by provincial Agriculture Minister Ernie Hardeman, and promises unprecedented fines for individuals who are on farm property uninvited.
The government also intends to target animal advocates who hold vigils outside slaughterhouses, documenting suffering animals inside transport trucks and providing water to animals. In Canada, animals can be transported for days at a time without food, water, or rest. The Save Movement founder Anita Krajnc was prosecuted for criminal mischief in 2015 for giving water to suffering pigs in a transport truck on a hot summer day, and was acquitted after a much-publicized trial.
The government also promises to make it an offence to obtain permission by “false pretences” to be on property. This vaguely-worded prohibition could effectively shut down undercover exposés into conditions on industrial farms, which may involve seeking employment without disclosing an intention to blow the whistle on cruel and illegal conditions. Similar so-called “ag gag” legislation in multiple U.S. states has been struck down by the courts as unconstitutional.
Whistleblowers in Ontario have revealed shocking, illegal cruelty to animals, including chicken cruelty at Maple Lodge Farms chicken slaughterhouse, horrific conditions for pigs at Crimson Lane Farms, and abuse of turkeys at Hybrid Turkeys, which led to a cruelty conviction for the company. Millbank Fur Farm is facing charges after a whistleblower revealed suffering minks just last year.
Meanwhile, animal welfare conditions on farms in Ontario are not regulated.
“Ontario’s attempt to cover up animal cruelty is absolutely chilling, and should be deeply disturbing to us all,” said lawyer Camille Labchuk, executive director of Animal Justice. “There are no welfare standards, no public inspections, and there is no meaningful oversight for the tens of millions of animals confined in appalling conditions on farms. Undercover exposés of Ontario farms and slaughterhouses regularly lead to animal cruelty prosecutions and convictions. Greater transparency is good for animals, food safety, and public confidence. Instead of addressing the animal cruelty crisis on farms, the government is misusing the justice system to conceal animal abuse in a way that may well violate the Charter.”
The Ontario bill is part of a worrying, U.S.-inspired effort to further conceal farmed animal cruelty in Canada. Last week, Alberta passed similar legislation. Ag gag laws became common in the U.S. during the last decade in an effort to stifle undercover exposés of farming conditions.
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Photo: Louise Jorgensen / Toronto Cow Save