Industry given green light to close door to public view.

by Emma Chamberlain

In December, a bill was introduced by Ford’s government that removes the public’s ability to know what goes on behind closed doors on animal farms. Bill 156 — formally known as “Security from Trespass and Protecting Food Safety Act” — focuses on punishment for whistleblowers and freedom behind closed doors for factory farms and processing facilities. 

The bill has passed into the second reading stage, which could be bad  news for anyone wanting to know more about where their food comes from.

Public access to truth is more important than industries controlling what we see.

Ontario’s government proposed this bill with the intention to provide privacy to “farmers” – by which they mean the agriculture industry, which increasingly consists of corporate-owned agro-factories staffed by precarious workers. 

The legislation, if passed, will result in harsh fines for anyone who trespasses on “animal protection zones” (such as “animal processing facilities” and “other prescribed premises”) or exposes cruel or unfair conditions. 

The bill prohibits individuals from entering an  “animal protection zone” and also from “interfering or interacting” with farm animals without the landowner’s consent. (Leveller Editors: Protection of private property is, naturally, where the Ford government becomes obsessed with consent.) 

Under these guidelines, if a visitor to a farm witnesses troubling conditions and films them without consent from the landowner, they could be fined up to $15,000. Saving an animal from death, injury, or abuse would incur the same penalty, naturally.

The transportation of the animals is also subject to secrecy, with the bill stretching to hide the conditions of travelling animals from public view. It is legal in Canada to transport animals for days at a time, in heat and cold, without food, water, or rest.

Undercover exposures have proved beneficial in revealing farms which don’t meet legal, humane conditions. The Millbank Fur Farm north of Guelph, for example, is facing charges after a whistleblower found suffering minks on their farm in 2018. If this bill “intended to protect farm animals” (in the words of its opening phrase) had been in place at the time, the abuse would have gone uncovered.

By putting up large walls between the industry and the consumers they sell to, we give potential perpetrators a mask to hide behind. We leave the public in the dark about where their food and clothing comes from.

Similar legislation, targeted at prosecuting whistleblowers, has been ruled unconstitutional in several American states. It seems obvious that public access to truth is more important than industries controlling what we see. It’s our food, after all.

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