The Canadian Press/HO-Elli Garlin
On the heels of progressive animal welfare legislation, the provincial government has introduced a new bill in the legislature that is a major setback for animal welfare in Ontario.
Bill 156, the so-called Security from Trespass and Animal Safety Act is not only a major animal welfare concern, but parts of it are also alarming for anyone concerned about civil liberties in our country.
In a nutshell, the act outlaws entering the property of a farm or "animal processing facility" without prior consent. It also outlaws any interaction with animals on farms, these facilities, or farm animals in transport. Remember the dehydrated pigs sweltering in an overcrowded truck waiting for slaughter that were offered water by an activist? Her name is Anita Krajnc. She was charged, but acquitted. The provincial government wants to make sure that anyone offering this act of kindness will never be acquitted again.
And they want to make sure that any animal cruelty occurring on farms, slaughterhouses and brutally overcrowded transports is never seen by the public.
The act also prohibits using false pretenses to see what is going on in these facilities. So, let's say I hear that a farmer is brutalizing his livestock. I want to check it out. If I say I'm interested in buying a few head of cattle so that I can see if it's true, that is illegal under the act.
Further — and here are the parts that have severe civil rights implications — the onus to prove that I had the farmer or slaughterhouse-owner's consent to visit is reversed. I have to prove he said it was okay. And further, this guy or any farmer or trucker can ask me for my name and address, and can arrest me without a warrant or pay someone else to arrest me — and they can use reasonable force to do it. Effectively, the act turns farmers, truckers and slaughterhouse-owners into a police force unto themselves.
And to ensure that this on-the-face-of-it unconstitutional act is not successfully challenged in court, the government has wrapped the whole ugly mess in a thin tissue paper of disease control and farm-worker safety.
It's shameful. This act should never have been written, and it should not pass, yet it is now in committee. If you believe in the welfare of animals, or even if you don't but believe in due-process, please contact your MPP today and tell them.
President and CEO