Ontario has introduced its draft legislation to increase security on farms — the Security From Trespass and Protecting Food Safety Act, 2019. The focus, certainly, is on the biosecurity and food risk associated with non-authorized people traipsing through farms and interfering with animals on their way to slaughter. The act, likely to be passed in the spring, is coming under some scrutiny, with animal rights extremists calling it an “ag-gag” law and a violation of the right to protest.
PETA, an animal rights extremist group, sent out a media ask shortly after the bill was announced. In it, the group asked of livestock farmers: “What are you hiding?” I have a very succinct answer for them: nothing. But, if I had the chance to ask it back, I’d ask, “What are you entering farms for?” As Mary Robinson, president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, posted on Twitter, “Animal activists are not swarming farms because they believe there’s illegal activity.They’re entering farms because they don’t think animal agriculture should exist at all. That is a critically important distinction that seems lost in the sympathetic media.”
Pushback on the legislation in Ontario, and similarly in Alberta, has been that these new regulations muzzle criticism. It’s almost laughable (if it wasn’t so asinine) to accuse farmers of “hiding.” Search social media for 10 minutes and you’ll find hundreds of farmers willing to open their lives and barns to you, sometimes even in person. Have an earnest question? Just ask. I graze sheep in a solar farm, for crying out loud, along a major road. People stop every day to see the sheep; they are the furthest thing from hidden.
— Lyndsey Smith (@realloudlyndsey) August 26, 2019
For the past several years the rallying cry in agriculture has been “tell your story!” “Share!” “Post photos!” Farmers in Canada have been doing the exact opposite of hiding. Instead, farmers have been throwing barn doors open and inviting people in (virtually, because a) geography and b) biosecurity). You know what’s also been happening? An increase in online threats, bullying, and disgusting treatment of humans by animal rights extremists. The abuse has actually deterred farmers from sharing. Worse, home invasions and thefts of livestock have made farmers feel unsafe and threatened in their homes, so much so, that many have withdrawn from sharing so that they can focus on their family and their farm — the exact opposite of what PETA is apparently asking for.
You can’t have it both ways.
I’m wondering how people would take it if I stuck my arm inside a minivan window with juice.
If the kid inside says they want it does it mean the parents are neglectful?
Of course not.
Activists can still be on a sidewalk with signs, they just can’t stick their arms in trailers.
— Andrew Campbell (@FreshAirFarmer) December 7, 2019
It’s also clear that this legislation is NOT a restriction on a person’s right to protest. Want to gather at Parliament Hill? Have at it. Want to protest peacefully on public property? Give ‘er. Want to give up eating meat? You 100 per cent have every right to do so. This legislation doesn’t restrict a person’s right to an opinion or right to push for changes they want. What it does is underline that farms and barns are off limits to strangers (especially ones looking to do harm, intimidate, threaten, and steal), just like everyone else’s home.
This legislation matters — though really it’s sad it’s even necessary — as farmers deserve the same protection in their homes as every single other Canadian. We are people, with families and children, who happen to run a business on their same property. My home begins at my property line, just like it does for every other Canadian. Don’t like that I raise animals for food? You don’t have to! But not supporting how I make my living doesn’t absolve you of following Canada’s laws or usurp my rights as a person. It means that this legislation is necessary, and it needs to pass.
As for PETA and other animal rights extremists — stop pretending that you’re about animal welfare and stop pretending that farmers are anything but transparent — It’s so very untrue.