It’s an unfortunate reality for many farmers — the very frightening possibility of activists targeting them on their private property, where their homes are, where they care for their livestock and raise their children.
Last weekend, Ontario dairy farmers were left shaken when activists trespassed on private property, entered barns without permission, and reportedly, even stole a dead calf.
The events have left several outspoken farmers angry, but also feeling extremely violated. It’s one thing for activists to protest in a public space, but it’s quite another to have highly-motivated and agitated strangers enter your place of work and home yard. Imagine if these same people did this in the city? How quickly would police respond? How seriously would they be dealt with?
I, for one, am extremely concerned on several fronts. Putting aside the threats to biosecurity and animal and human safety, I am most concerned for the well-being of our farmers — myself included, as a livestock producer. To feel physically threatened IN YOUR HOME is completely unacceptable, and, yes, very illegal. It’s also mentally taxing. I’m concerned about future interactions between farmers and trespassers. When people are threatened, they want to protect themselves. At a minimum, this means many “open barn door” events and invitations to farms will be cancelled or never planned. This will set back our industry and erase the efforts that have been put into building trust and transparency. But, and we have to talk about this, there is a very real possibility of someone — activist or farmer — getting seriously injured or worse, killed.
As a farmer, do you know your rights? If someone shows up unannounced, with a plan to protest or “liberate” animals, do you have a plan? Have you ever called in a strange vehicle staking out your property? Unfortunately, this type of suspicious behaviour is becoming all too common.
The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) has a fact sheet regarding this kind of situation on its website, and tells farmers to first call 911, to use extreme caution, and, if possible, record your interactions with trespassers, as voice recordings or video could be useful evidence later.
These directions are a good place to start, but farmers also need to be asking their commodity groups what they are doing or plan to do, in the face of escalating threats to farmers.
These are our homes, where we raise our kids, and earn our livelihoods. Nothing could be more important.