Party for the Animals pushes back against concealment of cruelty in animal agriculture
In June, a new law came into effect in the Canadian province of Ontario that criminalizes the act of exposing cruelty and abuse in animal agriculture. This Bill 156 all but makes it impossible for animal rights advocates, whistleblowers and investigative journalists to bring animal abuse and malpractices to light. “It is a direct attack on basic civil rights such as the right to information, the right to demonstrate, freedom of the press and freedom of speech, and as a result, an attack on democracy itself”, states Esther Ouwehand, the Party Chair of the Dutch Party for the Animals. Since the Dutch government maintains close trade relations with Canada and has stated to “jointly strive for animal welfare”, she submitted written questions to the Dutch Ministers responsible.
Malpractices in Canadian animal agriculture covered up
This new Canadian law makes it illegal to expose or publish malpractices in the animal industry and limits the right to demonstrate at slaughter houses in Ontario. In recent years, a large number of instances of abuse in the animal industry were brought to light in Ontario. Thanks to whistleblowers, animal rights activists and investigative journalists, practices such as smashing chicks to death, abusing piglets until they die from their sustained injuries, and slowly letting mink kept in cages die from their open wounds were exposed. A substantial part of the current animal welfare legislation was drawn up in response to similar exposés. This new law, however, criminalizes the collection of evidence and publishing of information about such malpractices.
The Canadian Animal Protection Party, animal rights organisations such as Last Chance for Animals and various Canadian civil rights organisations and journalist associations fiercely oppose the law. “While Bill 156 is provincial legislation, it will have a national effect on other provinces’ interests to pursue similar ag-gag legislation in their regions. (...) We will also continue to fight to ensure that animal cruelty remains a central focus of debate on this issue” stresses the Canadian Animal Protection Party.
According to opponents, the law is in violation of fundamental civil rights. For that reason, similar legislation was deemed unconstitutional in various American states. “Across the globe, people have a right to know where their food comes from”, states Esther Ouwehand, Party Chair of the Dutch Party for the Animals. “The transparency of the Canadian animal industry was at a minimum to begin with. It is now becoming clear that the government of Ontario wants to put up a smoke screen in front of the production of animal products at all costs, no matter the consequences.”
Death of an activist
A few days after Bill 156 was passed, the Canadian animal rights activist Regan Russell of the Save Movement was killed after getting hit by a truck carrying pigs during a peaceful demonstration at a slaughterhouse. Many animal rights activists consider her death to be the result of the increasingly aggressive treatment of animal rights advocates by both the Canadian government as well as representatives of the animal industry. The investigation by the Canadian police into the cause of this tragic event is still ongoing.
“Peaceful activists deserve the protection of their government, no matter where in the world. The Canadian government is failing to do this, in fact, they are facilitating the aggressive treatment of activists. It is unacceptable that a government fails to tackle the root cause of malpractices when they come to light, but instead chooses to attack the proverbial messenger”, says Ouwehand. “We are asking the Dutch minister to address this issue with his Canadian counterparts and to keep a close eye on the investigation into Russell’s death.”
In other countries, political parties for animals push back against laws such as Bill 156, also called ag-gag laws, as well. Last year, the Australian Animal Justice Party was able to prevent such a law from being passed in the state of Victoria.