Report it – activists are breaking the law
So-called “investigations” by radical animal rights organizations have been well publicized by major media outlets over the past few years. I am reluctant to use the term “investigation” to describe such activities, however, because it almost lends a degree of legitimacy to the practice. Their activities are illegal and, given its effects, I see more similarities to terrorist conduct.
A radical organization operating out of the United States has been responsible for the most publicized instances of such activities in Canada. This organization is very well organized, well-funded, and features a sophisticated communications strategy. A pro-vegan agenda is at the heart of its mission, and it is clearly mandated to do as much damage as possible to livestock operations and the industry as a whole.
What is most frustratingly hypocritical and misleading about their operations is the fact that the operatives who are collecting video of alleged abuses are, themselves, responsible for the welfare of the animals. Instead of doing their jobs, and ensuring that the animals’ welfare is being looked after, they choose to neglect their duties and videotape the results.
In addition to being misleading with its messages, its so-called “investigations” at livestock farms are illegal in Ontario.
Through my work as legal counsel in the farming community, as well as my personal connections there, I have learned that multi-national activist organizations are not alone in breaking the law by entering upon livestock farms. Seemingly emboldened by highly publicized activists’ stunts (I believe that television programs that prominently feature the product of activists’ operations lend perceived legitimacy to such practices and encourage others to do the same), individual people are now also boldly entering upon farms and into barns without permission. Not only do these actions cause farmers security and privacy concerns, they also raise biosecurity risks.
First and foremost, entry onto a farm or into a barn without consent is trespassing – in both the civil and statutory contexts. If consent to enter is obtained by way of false pretenses (such as if a farm unknowingly hires an activist operative), it is still trespassing because the ‘license’ (permission) provided to enter the farm’s facilities was issued only for employment purposes, not to take videos or cause damages.
In addition, in the context of a situation where an activist organization sends an agent to obtain employment for the purpose of conducting a so-called “investigation”, they are committing fraud by either expressly or impliedly indicating that the purpose of the job application is for anything other than taking video or causing damages.
Lastly, it is simply illegal to carry out a private investigation in Ontario without a license issued pursuant to the Private Security and Investigative Services Act. This Act regulates who can be licensed and the conduct of licensees. These radical animal rights organizations, and their operatives, are not licensed. I note that, even if they were licensed, the Act’s Code of Conduct prohibits public dissemination of private investigations, which certainly includes sensational media releases and internet smear-campaigns.
So, what should be done about all of this? Well, to start, farmers and companies who have been victims must report activists’ activities to the police and /or Ontario’s Private Security and Investigative Services Branch. Without a complaint, nothing will be investigated, the perpetrators will not be charged and, worst of all, they will likely become bolder and more confident to break the law again. From there, we must trust that the police and Crown Attorney’s office will do the right thing and lay charges.
I note that, in addition to pursuing action by the authorities, an aggrieved farmer may also independently pursue civil remedies against a trespasser. There are a number of civil options available in this regard.
If you are subjected to the circumstances described above, I recommend contacting a lawyer for advice. Do not hesitate to seek out advice, even if you are merely suspicious about some sort of situation that you find yourself in. If you choose to contact me, I will provide a free consultation and a summary of your options.
One thing is for sure, inaction caused by complacency or fear will only encourage the activists to take bolder and bolder actions against the industry. It is time to say “enough is enough”.
The above article expresses the personal opinions of the author, and does not necessary reflect the opinions of any of his clients.
-Kurtis R. Andrews