Police around the province are welcoming a new law that will change the way animal rights activists are allowed to protest.
The updated Security from Trespass and Protecting Food Safety Act, with some parts now in effect, will make it more difficult for demonstrators to interfere with drivers transporting animals to slaughter.
Enacted by the Provincial government earlier this week, it will impose heavier fines for trespassing on farms or the grounds of processing pants. It specifically prohibits interaction with a farm animal in transportation without the consent of the driver. Fines could reach as high as $25,000 for repeat offenders.
The new regulations expand the scope of previous legislation in terms of who cannot be interfered with, the type of vehicle and the area of enforcement.
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“We are fully aware of the growing concerns regarding the safety of individuals who obstruct the transportation of livestock and interfere with farm animals,” said Halton Police Chief Stephen Tanner. “We recognize the right for people to protest, but that right does not include dangerously obstructing vehicles at food processing facilities. While there may be an opportunity for a graduated educational approach in the early stages of this new legislation, enforcement will be utilized as soon as necessary. We are thankful for this new legislation from the Province of Ontario designed to ensure safety of livestock and also of protesters, truckers and all involved in the transportation of livestock.”
In June, animal rights activist Regan Russell was struck and killed by a truck that was transporting pigs to Feamans Pork slaughterhouse on Appleby Line in Burlington. The driver of the truck has been charged with careless driving causing death.
The Burlington location has long been a site for demonstrations and Halton Police say they have worked with the owners, transport drivers, and the protesters in an effort to allow peaceful protests, but at the same time to not unduly impede traffic or the economic activity at the plant.
In announcing the new regulations, Ernie Hardeman, Ontario’s Agriculture Minister, acknowledged the right to public protest, but said public safety and the protection of the provincial food supply must be secured.
Camille Labchuck, executive director for Animal Justice, called the new provisions “unconstitutional” and that it directly targets the animal rights movement by preventing people from exposing the suffering of animals.