Farmers fear being targeted by activist invasions

Recent incidents have prompted many to review what the regulations allow

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A recent self-guided tour by animal activists on a dairy farm in southwestern Ontario and a protest outside another dairy near London have farmers reviewing their rights and possible courses of action should they find themselves the next victims of these unwanted visitors.

Why it matters: Animal rights activists are illegally trespassing on farm businesses and properties. These actions put farmers, their families and workers in unwanted and unsafe situations.

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Anyone who enters private property without the owner or occupier’s permission or under legal authority is considered trespassing. If they fail to leave when asked, they can be found guilty of a trespasser’s offence under the Trespass to Property Act.

Both the Trespass to Property Act and the Occupiers’ Liability Act use the term “occupier”. This term covers the legal owner, as well as their tenant.

Under the Trespassing to Property Act, Section 3 — Prohibition to Entry clearly states:

“Entry on premises may be prohibited by notice to that effect and entry is prohibited without any notice on premises,

(a) that is a garden, field or other land that is under cultivation, including a lawn, orchard, vineyard and premises on which trees have been planted and have not attained an average height of more than two metres and woodlots on land used primarily for agricultural purposes; or

(b) that is enclosed in a manner that indicates the occupier’s intention to keep persons off the premises or to keep animals on the premises. R.S.O. 1990, c. T.21, s. 3 (1).”

Producers who find unwanted individuals entering their property, should politely ask them to leave. If they do not leave, producers should call 911 and record interactions to use for later evidence.

“We never want anyone to put their own safety in jeopardy. We continue to encourage individuals to contact the authorities as soon as possible,” says Rodney LeClair, media relations and community safety officer with the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) in Cayuga. “We want them to be careful and not provoke the individuals or create hostility.”

Producers should note licence plates, vehicle descriptions, and gather as much information as they can to help police.

Police may not be able to shut down protests because organizations have the right to do so, but police may stop it if it is affecting traffic, causing safety concerns or criminal offences are occurring, says LeClair.

Murray Sherk, chair of Dairy Farmers of Ontario (DFO), says the DFO is working with local authorities on the investigations following recent protest events.

He said it is recommended that producers post “no entry,” “no trespassing” and biosecurity signage on their properties.

As well, producers should report suspicious activities to authorities, have emergency plans in place and ensure that family members and staff are aware of the protocols on how handle situations should they arise.

About the author

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Jennifer lives on a farm in Cayuga, Ontario and has a lot of experience in the many aspects of agriculture.

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