Ag-gag Bill C-156:
The consequence of denial
An attack on free expression making it impossible to report animal cruelty
By Georges R. Dupras
I can’t help but wonder who came up with the idea of Bill C-156 in Ontario. This bill would make it impossible for anyone in the general public, or even the fourth estate, to trespass, document, or report on animal cruelty.
I would think that this flagrant attack on free speech and expression is the result of a case where a woman, described as a terrorist by the animal industry, was arrested for giving water to a pig on its way to slaughter. Charges were laid but the consequences were not what the industry had hoped for. It appears that when the general public was made aware that pigs can travel 36 hours without rest or water, the average Canadian sided with the woman.
Many of these testimonies are from whistleblowers, who have first-hand knowledge of what happens behind closed doors, while others are from undercover agents.
There are numerous examples of abuse within the animal industries documented by various organizations across North America. When these incidences are made public the industry reacts by either insisting that these are isolated cases or through denial. Hardly a month goes by when stories, film clips and horrifying pictures from across North America aren’t brought to our attention. These abuses are not confined to the agricultural field but also the entertainment industry and others. Many of these testimonies are from whistleblowers, who have first-hand knowledge of what happens behind closed doors, while others are from undercover agents.
Rather than address the reality, the animal industries continue to operate behind closed doors while hiring public relations firms to re-package the industries’ faltering image. Among other cosmetic changes, they no longer use the term “slaughterhouses” but promote the expression “protein producers”. They also refer to anyone critical of their methods as “terrorists” though I would have thought that label might better fit those responsible for the 9-11 attack, the Oklahoma bombing, Lockerby air disaster and Embassy bombings. Admittedly, some of the more vocal among the Animal Rights Groups refer to meat processors as killers… but isn’t that exactly what they do behind those closed doors?
‘Rather than address the reality, the animal industries continue to operate behind closed doors while hiring public relations firms to re-package the industries’ faltering image.’
The animal industries insist compliance with industry standards throughout every step of the slaughter procedure, and in one case on June 08, 2020, during testimony at the Senate Committee on Bill C-156, one of the industry speakers implied that a veterinarian is present at all times, up to and including the kill box. This statement is denied by at least two veterinarians, one a retired veterinarian and Canadian Food Inspection Agent.
In addition, and aiding the agricultural industry, both Federal Parties in Canada condone the existence of covert caucuses within their ranks. The Liberals have the Rural Caucus, while the Conservatives have the Outdoor Caucus, both including MPs and un-elected Senators dedicated to blocking any significant change in animal protection laws.
Animal advocates should be grateful to the Ford Government of Ontario for giving them an international platform – one that will surely go viral. Thank you for the free publicity that activists could never otherwise afford to promote their views when Bill C-156 is ultimately challenged at the Supreme Court.
As for the inspectors, it has been argued that these facilities are overseen by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), to guarantee compliance with all industry regulations.
Isn’t that precisely what Provincial authorities told us about retirement homes and the Coronavirus? Were we not told that these facilities were overseen by responsible officials and inspectors?Has our experience with COVID-19 not shown us that residences for the aged were the worst hit by the Coronavirus and that neglect occurred for days before anyone knew about it?
‘… during testimony… one of the industry speakers implied that a veterinarian is present at all times, up to and including the kill box. This statement is denied by at least two veterinarians, one a retired veterinarian and Canadian Food Inspection Agent.’
Where were the inspectors? Where were these responsible officials? And let’s not forget, these residencies were not closed facilities as our slaughterhouses, etc., nor was this the first pandemic. In 2004, when the SARS pandemic introduced itself to us, we were assured that measures would follow to enable us to better prevent and react to future such events. That was 16 years ago and, months ago, when the Coronavirus was identified, where were these preventative measures?
I’m not blaming the few inspectors that exist, as there are far too few of them, and they ultimately end-up reporting infractions to industry bosses.
Can the public be blamed?
The Coronavirus may have originated in Wuhan, China, but it did it’s worst in old age residences in this country which are open facilities. Can we be blamed for our lack of faith in a self-regulated system, governed behind closed doors, without “independent” oversight? That is exactly what is happening daily in slaughter facilities across this country.
Free speech and expression
What is at risk here is our basic right to freedom of speech and expression. Is it not the right of every Canadian to know where their food is coming from, whether it is genetically modified and how it is processed etc.?
“I may disagree with what you are saying but I’ll fight to the death your right to say it.” This saying obviously does not apply to Canada.
Sign the petition
To find out more about Bill C-156 and to sign the petition go to stopbill156.com
Feature image: Electric shock scars on an abused pig in slaughter truck, Burlington, Ontario – stopbill156.com
Read also: other articles by Georges R. Dupras
Georges R. Dupras has advocated for animals for over fifty years. A member of the International Association for Bear Research and Management (IBA), a Director of the Animal Alliance of Canada (AAC), Quebec Representative of Zoocheck Canada and past Board member of the Canadian SPCA, he worked on the original Save the Seal campaign in 1966 that culminated in the founding of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) in 1969. Georges Dupras has published two books, Values in Conflict and the eBook Ethics, a Human Condition, and currently lives in Montreal, Canada.
Mr. Dupras’ article gets it! This totalitarian ag-gag Law has no place in a democratic country like Canada and its legality will be tested. This Law is so offensive on so many levels; most of all, it leaves these tortured animals with absolutely no voice whatsoever. I can only hope that the upside of all this is the widespread coverage of inherent suffering of animals on factory farms.
This excellent article covers many issues in a concise and cogent way. As I was reading about the “self-regulation” argument of the meat producers, the tragedy of the long-term care facilities in Canada came to mind. Lo and behold, Mr. Dupras had the same thought and expressed it better than I could. Self-regulation does not work – not when profits are the top priority! Bill 156 and others like it, must be stopped for the sake of democracy and transparency.
This Bill is meant to achieve silence about the horrendous cruelty involved in the animal food industry – from farm to plate – particularly in huge intensive farm facilities. Trying to cover up a bad situation will only make matters worse. if this Bill is passed it will go to court and only then will the true picture be exposed. Whistle blowers will have done their job while the authorities have closed their eyes and ignored their duty.
I took a look at Bill C-156. Everyone should. To my laymans mind, it runs roughshod over established bills on animal rights, responsibility for safe food handling/production, and whistleblower protection. Why must we always go backwards – these were progressive acts that demonstrated good governance not the narrow interests of corporate profits. How many of these factory farms and processing facilities are US owned. This is throwing out our rights to free speech, to recognition of animals as sentient beings, to responsibility to care for whistleblowers in exchange for what: in support of the well-being and interests of these US corporations and not protecting Ontario/Canadian interests.
Not sure if residents in Quebec will have an impact on signing a petition regarding an Ontario Bill, but its worth a try.
We should, however, do something as well about testing potential Covid vaccines on animals.
What gives us the right to inject diseases into the poor animals ?
NOTHING but labs do it anyway.
Do it on PEOPLE since they are the intended beneficiaries of the vaccines.
My feeling is that when the right of free speech and expression are in play, it is the responsibility of all Canadians to speak up. Alberta has a similar law which, to my knowledge, has gone un-challenged. The loss of basic rights can creep up on us, quietly and with little discussion. We should not allow jurisdictional boundaries from keeping us from protesting.
I have worked in the Food industry for 25 years. If an employee sees and wants to report abuse of animals, they will tell an inspector and that inspector will do nothing. Inspectors rely on their jobs from the farmers. A farmer only needs to request another inspector and it’s done.
It costs money to ensure animals do not suffer. This law is an atrocity.