Farmers rejoice, animal activists irate over ag protection bill
WINGHAM, ONT. -- Brent Royce believes there is a huge sigh of relief across Ontario’s countryside following the passing of Bill 156.
"It’s really there to protect farm families and keep people from trespassing," says the Perth County farmer.
The Ontario government recently passed the Security from Trespass and Animal Safety Act. It’s a bill that will dramatically increase fines for people who trespass on farms, and make it illegal to obstruct trucks carrying farm animals.
It’s a result of an increasing number of animal activist protests on farms across Canada.
"They’ve shown up at all kinds of farms in the middle of the night, you just never truly know. Some farmers have put up video surveillance, but yeah, I’d say this is a huge sigh of relief. Everyone is thankful and hopeful this bill will help out," says Royce, who is also a regional representative for the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, who pushed for the bill’s adoption.
Animal activists are not thankful for the new bill. They say the bill will put an end to undercover operations to expose abuse on farms, as it makes it illegal to gain access to a farm or processing plant under false pretences.
Camille Labchuk is the Executive Director for Animal Justice.
"This is what’s known as an ag gag law, which attacks whistleblowers and prevents them from exposing illegal and unethical practices on farms. This pure protectionism for the farm industry," she says.
Labchuk believes, sometimes the ends justifies the means.
"These investigations have led to animal cruelty prosecutions and important policy changes. But the bill would effectively shut down these important undercover videos," says Labchuk.
Farmers and the provincial government say there are laws in place to protect animals, and trespassing on farms can simply no longer be tolerated.
"You want your family to be safe. We do to. We want our family safe, and our farm safe," says Royce, who farms near Listowel.
Ontario’s Agriculture and Food Minister agrees.
"Individuals would never tolerate having strangers unlawfully enter their homes and to be threatened and harassed by those strangers. Farmers are no different and deserve the same protection under the law," he says.
Animal activist groups vow to fight the legislation, and have it overturned in the courts.