Tuesday, December 3, 2019

New Ontario law seeks to protect farmers from animal rights activists

Animal rights activists are making farmers feel unsafe in their homes, according to Ontario's Minister of Agriculture, as incidences of trespassing on private properties with livestock increase.

Thus, in an effort to better protect farmers — as opposed to the animals they raise to kill — Minister Ernie Hardeman has introduced a new piece of legislation that, if passed, would see protesters fined up to $25,000 for entering a farm or "food production facility" without authorization.

The Security From Trespass and Protecting Food Safety Act, 2019 not only strengthens penalties against trespassers, but bars anyone from "stopping, hindering, obstructing or interfering with a motor vehicle transporting farm animals."

The rules also prohibit people from merely interacting with farm animals while they're being transported, as animal rights activist Anita Krajnc did famously in 2015 by giving water to pigs headed into an abbatoir.

Kranjc was found not guilty of mischief in her widely-publicized case, as a judge determined that she did not obstruct or interfere with the lawful use and enjoyment of property (property being the pigs.)

Under the newly-proposed rules, she would have been fined $15,000 for a first offence, and up to $25,000 for subsequent offences, plus restitution for any loss or damages suffered by the farmer due to potential contamination.

A judge could also have chosen to increase these already hefty fines based on "aggravating factors." In fact, under the new rules, if a court chooses not to increase the maximum fine, they "must provide reasons for their decision."

Heavy-handed as it may seem, Ontario's Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs states that the proposed law is necessary to "protect farmers, their animals, livestock transporters and the province's food supply."

The province underscores the importance of keeping activists out of secure meat processing facilities in the name of biosecurity.

"Ontario's farmers work hard to protect their animals' health and welfare by protecting them against illnesses that can accidentally be brought onto the farm from an outside source," reads a backgrounder included with a release announcing the new legislation.

"Practicing good biosecurity has several benefits, including: Healthy animals (avoiding stress or trauma to animals and preventing disease transmission to farm animals)."

Ironically, while keeping them free from disease is of utmost importance, animals have very little protection from cruelty under any laws in Canada.

"The Meat Inspection Act is the only other federal law that applies to the welfare of farmed animals," notes World Animal Protection in a (weak) grading of Canada's animal protection rules.

"In Ontario, the duty of care requirements under the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act are exempted in respect of activities carried out in accordance with reasonable and generally accepted practices of agricultural animal care, management or husbandry."

It is because of these weak regulations that animal rights activists say they continue to trespass on farms, not only in Canada but across the globe.

"Because when an industry is permitted to police itself, and to use labels and marketing that are sometimes misleading regarding animal welfare, how are the growing number of consumers who want to see how the sausage is made supposed to know the truth?" wrote Jessica Scott-Reid for The Globe and Mail in April.

"As long as the welfare of animals on Canadian farms continues to be overseen by the industry rather than law, farmers can likely expect activists to continue checking in on them, and showing the world what they find."

It is of note that Hardeman's proposed farm trespassing legislation would exempt police, municipal by-law officers and "persons appointed under provincial animal protection and other legislation."

Law enforcement authorities (including the OSPCA) would still be able to enter farm and food processing facilities without prior consent... it's just not very likely at this point that they will.


by Lauren O'Neil via blogTO

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