Ag-Gag laws. They are bad laws that are spreading fast. And not one of them deserves a toehold in our judicial system.
That’s why it was a heartbreaking disappointment to see the federal New Democratic Party vote as a block, along with most members of the Conservative Party of Canada and the Bloc Quebecois, to pass Ag-Gag Bill C-205 at second reading.
Canadians, including those who buy animal-based products, are mostly uninformed about normal farming practices, such as the use of gestation and farrowing crates for pigs, castration of animals without anesthetics, and methods of artificial insemination and harvesting of semen. The animal agriculture industry has a lot to hide. But it’s not the role of government to help it do that – not a provincial government and certainly not the federal government.
Governments should require that practices behind barn doors be open and the treatment of animals be completely transparent. Most of us would recognize much of the legally sanctioned treatment of farmed animals is cruel and unacceptable. That’s why many farmers (not all) do not want their practices exposed.
Of the three parties who voted to send the bill to second reading, we believe the NDP is more likely to reconsider its vote given its past position on farmed animal transport and animal cruelty laws. Therefore, it is important that we convince the leader of the federal New Democratic Party to defeat this bill when it returns for third and final reading.
Bill C-205 is a private member’s bill to amend the Health of Animals Act. The recent vote means that the bill will be reviewed by a committee and possibly adjusted before returning for final vote. Given that the Liberals voted against the bill, the NDP hold the power to kill the bill at third and final reading.
Ag-Gag Bills Keep the Suffering of Animals Hidden
The goal of Ag-Gag bills is to hide the normal practices of animal agriculture which often involve suffering to animals and which most Canadians would be shocked to see. The bills are often given titles suggesting they are designed to protect the health of animals. This is a ridiculous idea when the animals on farms are there to be killed so their dead bodies can be eaten, or to be exploited to produce as much milk or as many eggs as possible at the least financial cost and then killed and eaten. Both ‘uses’ end by the animal dying a stressful and often painful death in a slaughter house. A better title would be ‘The Hide the Cruelty Act.’ That at least would be honest.
As I have shared with you before, provincial Ag-Gag bills have already been made law in Alberta and Ontario, while Quebec and Manitoba are also working on similar bills. At Animal Alliance, we are very concerned about Ontario’s Bill 156, one that goes farther than other provincial bills to hinder the exposure of farming practices that cause suffering to animals. I will share more with you about our response to Ontario’s Bill 156 at a later date.
Federal Ag-Gag Law now Proposed
Bill C-205, sponsored by Conservative MP, John Barlow (Foothills, Alberta) is meant to amend an existing Act.
It proposes: “…to make it an offence to enter, without lawful authority or excuse, a place in which animals are kept if doing so could result in the exposure of the animals to a disease or toxic substance that is capable of affecting or contaminating them.” It’s important to note that trespassing laws already exist in every jurisdiction in Canada, so further legislation regarding trespass is not needed.
Private members’ bills rarely pass. But they can serve as a trial run for bills that may later be adopted by the government in power. C-205 is a dangerous bill that should be defeated quickly. Most members of the Liberal Party voted against sending it to second reading. The three Green Party MPs also voted against the bill.
In a survey conducted by World Animal Protection, the NDP responded to a number of questions about farmed animals, with statements such as “The abuse of any vulnerable creature, human or otherwise, is something we should all take seriously.”
That’s why I am asking each of you to take just a few minutes to contact the leader of the federal New Democratic Party, Mr. Jagmeet Singh. Ask Mr. Singh to ensure his party votes to defeat Bill C-205 when it comes to final reading.
It’s always best to use your own words, but here are suggested talking points. Choose a few points that best reflect your own concerns:
– Bill C-205 must be defeated at final reading.
– Farmed animals need far more protection, not less.
– Animals are the victims of unjust legislation, not the owners and operators of farming or related businesses.
– There is too little transparency and accountability regarding how animals are bred, raised, transported and killed. As undercover investigations have shown, there is often terrible abuse.
– Undercover investigators and whistleblowers should be protected by law, not targeted.
– Farmed animals should not be exempt from animal welfare laws, as they are now. Progressive political parties, like the NDP, should take the lead in removing these exemptions.
– Canada needs to better protect farmed animals by:
- Ending all close confinement for animals such as veal calves, sows, broiler and laying hens, and others.
- Ending long-distance transport of farmed animals to slaughter and by banning transport during extreme weather, both hot and cold.
- Ending the “just-in-time” industry practice that rigidly pre-schedules dates of slaughter, leading to animals being transported in extreme weather.
- Encouraging Canadians to reduce their meat consumption by replacing some or all of the meat with plant-based products, as recommended in the latest Canada Food Guide.
- Phasing out subsidies to animal agriculture and focusing those subsidies on plant-based agriculture instead.
Mr. Jagmeet Singh’s contact information:
Phone: 1 613 947-0867
Mail: Jagmeet Singh, House of Commons, Ottawa, ON, K1A 0A6
Why This Approach?
We must be realistic in recognizing that the vast majority of Canadians still consume animal products. It’s appropriate for those citizens to know exactly what conditions the animals they consume endure, and the animals themselves deserve to have the truth of their suffering seen and recognized. That’s why Ag-Gag laws must be stopped. They are designed to hide the truth about what goes on behind barn doors.
I wish that simply urging everyone to ‘go vegan’ would end the suffering and death inflicted on sensitive animals used for food. We need to always be clear that there is no such thing as humane meat, dairy, eggs, or any other animal product. Nevertheless, I know that this year and, in the years ahead, millions of animals will be raised and killed for food in Canada. And every one of them is at risk of yet more suffering if transparency is reduced. We can’t let farmed animals be at even greater risk of cruel treatment than they already are. That is a goal worth fighting for.
For all the animals who will suffer on Canadian farms this year, and in the years ahead, this is the action I am urging you all to take.
You can see how every MP voted on Bill C-205 here: