A bill that increases fines for trespassing onto areas of farms where animals are housed has passed the Ontario legislature.
Bill 156 was passed by the legislature June 17. It also prohibits obtaining employment at a farm under false pretences.
Why it matters: There has been an increase in high profile farm invasions by protesters and that has caused concern from farmers.
“We’ve been very frustrated for quite some time with lack of teeth in existing laws in dealing with trespassers,” says Keith Currie, president of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture. That includes activists going into barns without permission, livestock trucks being held up and people with ATVs and other vehicles trespassing and damaging grain fields.
The legislation has been targeted by animal activists who say that Bill 156 will decrease their right to protest and could help hide animal abuse.
The legislation will allow protests, but just not ones that enter farm animal facilities or processors.
Currie says that if people want to protest at the end of his laneway, then they have the right to do so. But he says activists have become more willing to trespass, entering farms and barns, endangering animals and breaking biosecurity. Farmers have also expressed concern because most of them live at their farmers with their families.
“There is harassment and bullying in labour laws. Why does activism get a free ride in that? It’s time to protect personal property.”
Currie says the province has assured farm groups that the bill will stand up to court challenges.