TORONTO—National animal law organization Animal Justice is denouncing a move by the Ontario government to ram through dangerous “ag gag” legislation in the midst of a pandemic. Bill 156 is a government bill that would make it illegal for whistleblowers to go undercover to expose hidden animal cruelty on farms, unsafe work conditions in slaughterhouses, and appalling biosecurity conditions on farms that could lead to zoonotic diseases infecting humans.
The government introduced a motion on Wednesday to hold hearings on June 8 and 9, and a third reading vote on Bill 156 by June 15.
“Ontario should be laser-focused on battling the coronavirus pandemic and addressing the horrifying crisis unfolding in long-term care homes that is quite literally killing vulnerable members of our society,” said lawyer Camille Labchuk, executive director of Animal Justice. “Instead, the government is ramming through dangerous, unconstitutional legislation that would make it illegal to expose animal cruelty and unsafe conditions in the food system. I can’t imagine a lower priority as our province reels from the health and economic impacts of COVID-19.
“Transparency in the food system is needed more now than ever before. Slaughterhouse workers across the country are being infected and dying of COVID-19, and farmers are killing off animals en masse who cannot be slaughtered for profit because of slaughterhouse closures. Meanwhile, deadly viruses regularly emerge from factory farms, including bird and swine flu. Legislation that covers up zoonotic diseases, unsafe work conditions, and animal cruelty will have deadly consequences for humans and animals alike.”
Undercover investigations of Ontario farms have exposed shocking animal abuse and led to charges and convictions.
In February, over 40 law professors and constitutional and criminal law experts sent a letter to the government advising that Bill 156 is unconstitutional because it restricts the Charter right to free expression.
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