Farmed animals in Ontario need our help.
New regulations for Bill 156, the “Security from Trespass and Protecting Food Safety Act, 2020”, have now been proposed. Ontario’s government invites its citizens to comment on the proposed regulations and we urge you to be a voice for those who cannot speak for themselves.
Please, speak up for farmed animals using this online form:
In June, 2020 Ontario passed Bill 156, legislation meant to gag or prevent dissent regarding the practices of animal agriculture, and to help hide the truth about the treatment of farmed animals. We, along with numerous organizations and individuals vigorously opposed this ‘Ag-Gag’ bill. Ontario’s Progressive Conservative majority government passed it anyway.
The most troubling and dangerous part of Bill 156 is the section that criminalizes the practice of working under-cover to obtain evidence.
Under Bill 156 it is an offence to obtain permission to enter a farm, or other zone where farmed animals are kept, “under false pretences or duress.”
“Any person who uses duress or false pretences in the prescribed circumstances or for the prescribed reasons to obtain the consent of the owner or occupier of a farm, animal processing facility or prescribed premises or the driver of a motor vehicle transporting farm animals, to do anything that would otherwise be prohibited under subsection 5 (1), (2), (3) or (4) or 6 (2) is guilty of an offence.”
What does this mean?
This means under-cover investigators who apply for employment to gather video evidence about how animals are treated, are now open to being charged. We must remember that obtaining employment for the purpose of exposing bad practices is a time-honoured tradition and, we believe, a protected form of free speech. Journalists and advocates for vulnerable human populations such as children and the elderly have conducted these kinds of investigations to expose what takes place behind closed doors.
Under-cover investigations are often the only way to expose harms inflicted on voiceless victims. It is true that such employment is obtained without revealing the true reason for wanting the job; however, this is often the only way to expose what is taking place. There is a greater public good provided when those victims who cannot speak for themselves have their suffering exposed.
It’s critical to understand that this practice of obtaining under-cover evidence is different from a regular employee witnessing an act that violates the law, then acting as a ‘whistle-blower’ by making a report.
Freedom of Speech
The new regulations do offer some protection to those kinds of individuals. However, the animal advocates who obtain employment to work under-cover often do so to reveal normal practices allowed under the law, practices that cause great distress and suffering to farmed animals. Just because no laws are broken, does not mean that extreme suffering is not being inflicted.
It’s an essential part of our democratic process to expose the daily practices of businesses that are unfair. It’s entirely fair that the Canadian public be made aware of what our governments allow to be done to animals. It’s entirely fair, and necessary, for Canadian citizens to understand the truth of what farmed animals endure when confined in cages and crates, when kept inside barns, many never seeing daylight until the day they are loaded onto a truck bound for slaughter. This is the kind of free speech that must be protected. These kinds of investigations must not be criminalized.
The bill also includes pumped-up punishments for those who enter farm properties to record and expose the conditions that farmed animals endure in barns. Ontario already has trespass laws. Contrary to the fear-mongering from the animal agriculture industry and government, activists who have entered farm properties have not been shown to be responsible for break-downs in bio-security. It has not been demonstrated that animals and human health have been harmed.
Need to expose the Truth
If there was a reasonable process of routine, unannounced farm inspections carried out by neutral inspectors there would be less impetus for activists to expose to the public the bitter truth of animal agriculture. If the routine conditions that farmed animals endure were not so egregious, if farmed animals were not suffering so badly in the everyday operations of animal farming, there would be less need to go to such lengths to expose the truth.
And, more importantly, if the government and its agencies actually held animal abusers to account when evidence is provided, there would be greater trust that at least the worst abusers were being held accountable. Instead, we see the opposite. There is no reason to trust agencies like Ontario Ministry of Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) to provide even minimal protection to farmed animals, based on the past. This lack of government accountability has created the environment where caring citizens feel driven to expose the truth.
What you can do
We ask citizens, especially in Ontario, to express their concerns during an online discussion period that ends October 15th, 2020.
People across Canada may also want to comment, but a provincial government is always most interested in hearing from citizens who have the ability to vote for or against them during elections.
Please, speak up for farmed animals using this online form:
You may use your own words to express your concerns, however brief.
Suggested points from which to choose:
– continue to oppose Bill 156 as its purpose is to make the practices of animal agriculture even less transparent than they are now.
– ask the Ontario government instead to create more humane farm, transportation and slaughter regulations that lessen as much as possible the suffering inflicted on farmed animals.
– initiate regular, unannounced farm inspections carried out by neutral, not industry-friendly, investigators.
– reports of violations, regardless of the source, must be investigated and abusers face consequences.
– most importantly, protect the right to carry out under-cover investigations, including seeking employment without revealing one’s true intention of gathering evidence, as an important form of free speech that serves the greater public good.
Remind governments there can be push back to bad laws like Bill 156. They need to understand that though these unfair laws might win some votes, others will be lost.
Read the government’s discussion page about the proposed regulations:
And, one last note: Animal Alliance of Canada has retained legal expertise in constitutional law to advise us on the ramifications of Bill 156’s apparent attacks on free speech.
Such legal opinions are costly, but necessary. Please donate today to help us cover this essential expense: