2019 was looking like a monumentally historic year for animal welfare.
With the introduction of Canada’s new food guide in January, dairy and cattle farmers were no longer dictating the agenda with their false narrative about steak and milk dinners. Finally, science was setting the fact-based agenda by prioritizing our overall health, as well as the environment, by emphasizing plant and nut over animal protein; finally giving the innocent victims without a voice some reprieve from the regular torture.
Perhaps not so coincidentally, the introduction of Canada’s fact-based food guide was followed up by the booming meatless meat industry. 12 months ago, who could have predicted that a faux meat company would set records in the stock market and international fast food giants would be making plant-based hamburgers and chicken a menu staple?
Ah yes, 2019 is fixing to be a great year for animal welfare. So naturally, Canada’s panicked agriculture sector needed to act. Here in Ontario, they lobbied the Ford government enough to, directly and indirectly, ensure that abuse on farms not only continues but ramps up a notch.
On Tuesday, the Government of Ontario made the following announcement:
“Ernie Hardeman, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, will introduce legislation entitled, Security From Trespass and Protecting Food Safety Act, 2019 in the Ontario Legislature. The proposed legislation, if passed, will better protect farmers, their animals, livestock transporters and the province’s food supply. It would also require explicit prior consent to access an animal protection zone on a farm or food processing facility.”
Protect animals and the province’s food supply? Cute.
Organization of everyday heroes, Animal Justice sifted through the bull and exposed the bill for what it really is: legislature aimed to protect industrial farming from being exposed for their abuse and inhumane practices.
The bill “will target animal advocates who seek to expose animal abuse and neglect in industrial farming”, according to Animal Justice.
This dangerous new Ag Gag bill was written by the farming industry. Animal Justice requested a meeting with the Minister and he didn't even bother to reply. https://t.co/YuSjmU3s1w
— Camille Labchuk (@CamilleLabchuk) December 2, 2019
The Ontario government promises unprecedented fines for individuals who are on farm property uninvited and 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. Anita Krajnc, founder of The Save Movement, was charged with criminal mischief in 2015 for giving water to suffering pigs in a transport truck on a hot summer day before her acquittal.
“The government also promises to make it an offence to obtain permission by ‘false pretences’ to be on property,” continued Animal Justice in its official statement. “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.”
For a country and province that touts its progressiveness, did you know 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.
We need a bill to protect the ANIMALS from abuse on farms—not a bill to protect farms from public scrutiny. Take action to stop Ontario's ag gag law: https://t.co/kupL9brMcP pic.twitter.com/D9Ih46Jz8r
— Camille Labchuk (@CamilleLabchuk) December 3, 2019
“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 provincial bill is part of a worrying trend of U.S-inspired efforts, according to Animal Justice, to further conceal farmed animal cruelty in Canada. Last week, Alberta passed similar legislation.
Look, I get it. There are people who are furious with the animal rights movement. Suppressed guilt tends to bring defensive anger out of people.
Mahatma Gandhi once said, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated”.
So where does that leave us?
Lawyers across Canada have chosen the often tedious and much less lucrative practice of animal law, in order to provide a voice for those without one. You can find out more about Animal Justice and how to help here: https://www.animaljustice.ca/