Animal-rights activists are attacking our right to choose what we eat
Just over a month ago, I wrote an article about how farmers should stop inviting the public into their livestock barns, especially as a response to animal-rights activists’ demands to see how farming is done. I stated that these activists will never be satisfied, and will only use the information to harm the industry through misrepresentation. You cannot appease the unappeasable. Trust and transparency will not go unpunished
On March 9, 2019, two unfortunate dairy farms were subjected to protests in response to an alleged “invitation” to see what a modern dairy operation looks like. It was reported that activists entered the barn at Webstone Holsteins, in West Montrose, against the pleas of the farmer to leave his farm. Despite the farmer’s pleas, the activists claimed that they had a right to enter the farm because of a supposed invitation from the industry. The farmer said that the police were called, but did not show up for hours, and not until after the activists had left, taking a dead calf with them.
To be clear, it is an obvious case of trespassing when someone enters your property against your wishes. No one, including industry representatives, can invite someone onto your property against your wishes. There was no invitation in this case. The farmer should therefore pursue provincial trespassing charges and consider a civil suit for trespassing against the protestors.
The other noteworthy element of this case is that the farmer believed that he had no power to do anything without the police. This is not accurate. Citizen’s arrest is legal in Canada. While I would not recommend it, the farmer (or his / her agents, such as employees, friends or neighbours acting on the farmers’ directions) could have legally detained all or some of the protesters while they were actively trespassing on the farm. Their entry could have also been physically blocked, or they could have been physically removed (all while using the minimum force necessary). Again, I would not recommend doing any of this. It is risky business and ripe for problems, but it is legal if done correctly. There are many considerations and limitations to conducting a legal citizen’s arrest, so I strongly recommend seeking legal advice before even considering it. The Canadian Department of Justice also has an outline of the “do’s and don’ts” regarding citizen’s arrests (https://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/rp-pr/other-autre/wyntk.html). The point is, farmers are not completely powerless without the police in these situations.
Possibly the most incredible element of the March 9 case is the fact that a dead calf was stolen. It was the farmer’s property, and he did not consent to them taking it. It was therefore theft, pure and simple, and the farmer should pursue charges. It is almost certain that the protesters’ removal of the carcass also contravened section 5 of Ontario’s Dead Animal Disposal Act, so charges under that act are also warranted. In addition, there was an obvious biosecurity issue at play. CFIA should be contacted and a formal complaint levied against the protestors.
All of this is great to point out, and feel satisfied that our justice system is prepared to deal with animal-rights activists, but it is not. The truth is that animal-rights activists have become bolder and bolder with their actions in recent years, including similar types of illegal acts, being seemingly encouraged by a lack of push-back by the authorities.
Unrelated to the March 9 activities, activists have also obtained employment on farms under false pretenses to conduct so-called “investigations”, and they have faced no repercussions despite fraudulently obtaining jobs and carrying out private investigations without a licence. Activists are breaking into barns at night, and going unpunished despite clear-cut evidence of their crimes in the videos that they release. Relatedly, activists are taking advantage of the six-month limitation period associated with most provincial offences to avoid prosecution. More recently, activists have stolen live animals (liberating, in their words) while filming their exploits, and only time will tell if they are satisfactorily prosecuted.
People are asking, as I am, why are the authorities not doing anything (or enough) about this? One reason is that some of our laws are inadequate to deal with these new-age activist actions. Another reason is that the police are sometimes reluctant to enforce the law, choosing instead to play the role of mediator in hopes keeping the peace.
Something has to give or this bold flaunting of the law will only escalate. The events of March 9 are just another example.
The zealous nature of animal-rights activists is nothing short of a fundamentalist movement. There is a religious-fervor to their beliefs and actions. It is not enough for them to believe in their own philosophical principles, they are determined to impose their beliefs on other people, and nothing, not even the law, appears to be enough to stop them.
Historically, religious-fundamentalists have justified violence in the name of their supposed higher values. Not that long ago, some factions of the pro-life movement took radical steps, including violence, in the name of their cause. Their rationale is always the same – harm is justified to achieve a supposedly greater good.
In a democracy that promotes personal freedoms, like what we are entitled to enjoy in Canada, the state is supposed to protect our rights to personal choices. This includes freedom of religion, and a right to autonomy over one’s body. We have laws specifically designed to protect these rights.
People’s right to choose what they eat should also be protected, but it is under attack by these animal-rights activists. It is about time for the authorities to protect this right by protecting the farmers who produce our food. Will we see a more vigorous enforcement of existing laws? Or do we need better laws to protect our farmers? We probably need both.