When do farmers stop asking for approval, when they are doing nothing wrong?
Last week (Feb. 1, 2019), TVO’s The Agenda with Steve Paikin aired a show about Ontario’s animal welfare standards for livestock, featuring Bonnie Den Haan, a dairy farmer, and Camille Labchuk, a lawyer and Director of Animal Justice Canada (an animal rights advocacy group). While Ms. Den Haan did an admirable job in the debate, at times it was hardly fair considering the topics often dealt with legal issues, and only the animal rights activist had a legal background.
As an aside, this episode followed a previous episode of the same show which aired a week earlier, which included Ms. Labchuk for the animal rights perspective, but failed to include a voice for the livestock industry. In that episode, guests discussed the outcome of the Bogaerts case, the judgement of which declared the investigative powers of the OSPCA to be unconstitutional. Conspicuous from his absence was Mr. Bogaerts’ representative, who was not asked for comment or invited to participate in the discussion (full disclosure – that would be me).
Getting back to the more recent show, I believe that the time has come to change the narrative when it comes to subjecting farms to more and more public scrutiny. Farmers should put a stop to it, simply be proud of their work, and stop looking for approval when they are doing nothing wrong.
In the debate, Ms. Labchuk alleged that egregious conditions exist on farms because they are not subjected to ongoing and continuous inspection. Ms. Den Haan defended the industry by rightly pointing out that dairy farms are subjected to periodic unannounced inspections from industry representatives, not to mention regular visits from veterinarians, feed representatives, transporters, and others who would naturally be in a position to detect serious welfare issues that might be present on a farm.
Ms. Den Haan did a good job of highlighting current oversight of the industry. However, Ms. Labchuk’s point was that the livestock industry should be subjected to near constant and publically accessible surveillance. Like most animal-rights activists, she is essentially calling for “big brother” to move into livestock barns, or the closest thing possible.
Livestock’s response to such calls has typically involved an effort to appease the activists, and agree to make their operations more and more open to public scrutiny. In my opinion, this approach has to stop. The fact is that farmers will NEVER satisfy animal rights activists, so there is no point in trying – especially if it means subjecting the industry to otherwise unacceptable invasions into peoples’ privacy and private business.
Activists will always argue, “if there is nothing wrong going on, then what are you trying to hide?” This is a tired argument that flies in the face of our right to privacy and right to be left alone. This is like saying that we should welcome State and public intrusions into our homes, unless, of course, we are doing something illegal. A right to privacy is a pillar of our democracy and freedoms, and it should not be casually relinquished – especially as part of an effort to appease the unappeasable.
It must be kept in mind that animal rights activists do not truly advocate for improved animal welfare conditions; instead, they are abolitionists, who guise their efforts (to end livestock farming altogether) as calls for improved conditions. Their strategy is to kill the industry by a thousand cuts, or by whatever means possible.
Surveillance and access to private information are the tools of activists’ trade, used to manipulate depictions of the industry and present it in the worst possible light. It may be tempting for naturally trusting people, such as many farmers, to think that they can work with these people and find a compromise; however, there can be no compromise with people who object to the very existence of you and your business.
Reality is that the more open livestock facilities are to scrutiny by activists, the more fodder is provided to them to harm the industry.
Ms. Labchuk repeatedly referred to industry representatives as the “fox” looking after the henhouse. More accurately, it is the animal rights activists who play the role of “fox”, since it is their objective to kill the industry. Think hard before inviting the fox into your henhouse.