An Ontario Provincial Police community relations officer says the force’s officers have the legislative tools to do their job relating to trespassers on farms.
Sergeant Laura Brown told a recent meeting of the Eastern Canada Farm Writers Association that “activist activity is hot on everybody’s radar right now for good reason. It’s on ours as well and not just for agriculture.”
Why it matters: Animal rights activists have recently trespassed individually and in large groups onto Ontario farms. One, who admitted stealing pigs in social media posts, had her charges dropped, drawing the ire of the farm community.
The OPP has a provincial liaison team that is the go-between with organizations and groups in the province. When there’s any sort of action by a group, they are the first call, as they usually have contacts and background information.
Brown used the example of when she took a call about a barn fire that killed 1600 pigs. Activists said they were going to protest at the scene. She called the provincial liaison team and they talked to people involved, including agriculture organizations.
“People will say what they want to say,” said Brown, who is based in London. “What we are concerned about is keeping things safe.”
Just as the police have a plan, farms should have a plan for trespassers and activists. Talk to family members and employees about the plans, she said.
“What is your safety plan, not your confrontation plan, your safety plan,” said Brown. “You want to protect people at your business or your home. Have a meeting place, like a fire plan.”
Few activists are looking for a physical confrontation, so don’t give them one.
“They usually want to send a message and then go,” she said.
She said she couldn’t talk about the recent withdrawal of charges in the London pig theft case. But she said that police officers pledge to charge people if they believe there are criminal grounds to do so, and admitted that they can be frustrated when those charges don’t stick.
“If someone is charged criminally, all we can do is put the charge before the court,” she said.
She recommends surveillance for barns and valuable facilities, especially when they can be easily integrated into new construction.
“Our tools are great if necessary. We have what we need to do job. We have legislation, we have our eyes and we have our colleagues.”