The dangers of ag-gag laws in Canada
The intent of ag-gag laws is to silence animal advocates, putting animal welfare at risk.
By Lynn Kavanagh, our Farming Campaign Manager
What is the proposed federal ag-gag law?
In May 2022, Conservative Member of Parliament (MP) and agriculture critic, John Barlow, introduced Bill C-275, An Act to amend the Health of Animals Act.
The proposed law would target animal advocates who enter farms anywhere in Canada without permission to record suspected cruelty, mistreatment and/or the deplorable conditions in which farmed animals spend their lives.
The bill prohibits unauthorized entry into a farm building, which is one of the few ways the public has been able to witness what’s regularly going on inside. People who support the proposed law say that this is necessary to stop pathogens that could harm animals and the food supply.
However, disease outbreaks on farms are usually due to standard farming practices and poor adherence to biosecurity protocols by farm owners and operators. Yet, Mr. Barlow’s bill does not apply to farm owners and operators—even though disease outbreaks caused by the actions of farm owners and operators are numerous, well-documented, and have had devastating consequences for animals and public health.
The real intent of the bill is to punish whistle-blowers and animal advocates, rather than protect animals or the food supply.
What are ag-gag laws?
The intent of ag-gag laws is to silence advocates, whistleblowers, and undercover journalists by making it illegal for concerned citizens to document conditions or expose animal mistreatment, cruelty, and abuse on farms and on transport trucks.
Four provinces in Canada have now passed ag-gag legislation: Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, and PEI.
These laws are concerning for several reasons:
- Canada has weak laws to protect farm animals, one of the reasons why Canada received a failing ‘D’ grade in our Animal Protection Index.
- There is little to no transparency or accountability for how animals are treated which is why we need stronger laws protecting farm animals, not weaker ones. Ag-gag laws will only entrench into law the secrecy that already exists.
- The law not only threatens animal welfare by criminalizing those who would speak out for animals, but it is also violates our right to free speech.
Whistleblower activity is valued in a democratic and just society as an important tool to reveal unjust and unethical practices and this situation should be no different in the agriculture industries.
The public has a right to know how farm animals are raised and treated.
In the absence of strong laws to protect farm animals, undercover video footage has been instrumental in exposing the mistreatment and abuse of animals on farms across Canada. There have been several undercover investigations on farms in Canada over the past decade which have shown animals living in deplorable conditions and subjected to brutal treatment and abuse.
Speak up for farm animals!
You can give a voice to animals by getting in touch with your Member of Parliament to express your concerns and let them know you do not support this bill.