The Ontario government is now developing regulations to accompany the new Act which will define the scope of activities now illegal under the act, as well as those that are exempt.
The regulations are open for public comment until October 15. If you are an Ontario resident, we encourage you to submit a comment to the government to help ensure that animal welfare is a priority as the process moves forward. Keep reading for our guidance and suggestions for submitting comments, as well as where and how to submit.
The Ministry has developed a discussion paper which outlines details and application of the various clauses in the Act. We’ve identified some important aspects to note:
It is now illegal for concerned individuals to document the treatment of animals on farms including revealing cruelty or abuse of animals. Under the ‘false pretences’ clause, a person can be charged for revealing poor conditions, including mistreatment and abuse of animals on farms, in a slaughterhouse, or other animal use facility, when such information is gathered covertly or without disclosing the intent to gather the information.
The government is considering an exemption for whistleblowers and journalists, permitting individuals in these categories to report on and reveal conditions on farms or in ‘animal protection zones’ (defined in the paper), including mistreatment and abuse.
The regulations are open for public comment until October 15, 2020. We urge you to take the time to voice your concerns about the bill. Here are some points to help you frame the key issues, but we strongly encourage you to put these points in your own words and add your personal thoughts and opinions. Personal letters have a higher likelihood of being read and receiving a unique response.
Tell the Ontario government that you are not supportive of this legislation. It does nothing to protect farm animals who already have little protections under the law in Canada and Ontario.
The agriculture industry should be more transparent and accountable to the public for how animals are treated on farms, not less. Doing so would benefit those farmers doing things right as it would increase public trust. Research on “ag-gag” laws in the U.S. has shown they undermine public trust in farming and farmers.
Tell the government that you are supportive of the proposed exemptions for journalists and whistleblowers, as they are a potentially important source of information to reveal how animals on farms are treated and can help to reveal the truth.
The government should also remove the ‘false pretences’ clause under the Act. The reasons concern citizens are forced to obtain access to farms or other areas where farm animals reside via these means is because there are few laws to protect animals on farms in the first place. Sometimes the only way to gain access to obtain information about farm conditions and mistreatment is via means of ‘false pretence’. Note that this is not the same as obtaining access to a farm by illegal means such as trespassing which World Animal Protection does not support.