Proposed federal agricultural biosecurity law for animal advocates

A Canadian animal rights organization is raising concerns about a bill that was introduced in the House of Commons designed to ensure biosafety on farms.

Agriculture critic John Barlow, introduced Bill C-275 to protect the biosecurity of the food supply and to prevent people from invading farms and facilities. The bill would see those who transgress with fines of up to $500,000 and or imprisonment.

This is the second time Barlow has introduced this type of bill. Last year Bill C-205 had the support of both the NDP and the Bloc, however the Liberals first voted against it in the House but later supported it when it passed the committee. The bill was dissolved when federal elections were called in 2021.

In a phone interview with CityNews, Barlow said he got the idea for the bill after a group of protesters broke into a turkey barn on their 2019 southern Alberta tour, which he said increased the animals’ stress and of the farm family. He said this came a week after some of those same animal advocates were arrested in BC for trespassing on a pig farm.

“I know the protesters would never do this on purpose, but clearly they didn’t understand the very strict biosecurity protocols that farmers and producers must adhere to to protect biosecurity on their farms,” ​​Barlow said, explaining to protesters who were in BC could have brought a disease from one farm or animal to another unknowingly.

“We are in the midst of a global food crisis where food security is a priority and Canadian agriculture will have to bear much of that burden,” said Barlow.

This comes as Canada sees another outbreak of bird flu, which it says has devastated livestock across the country, and although there are already concerns about other existing diseases that have killed thousands of animals in the past, such as mad cow disease.

RELATED: Everything You Need to Know About Canada’s Massive Bird Flu Outbreak

Barlow said this bill aims to let animal advocates know they are welcome to protest the issues they are passionate about — but on public property and not trespassing on private property, and “potentially jeopardize the biosecurity of our food supply”.

“We’re just saying please respect the protocols that are in place to protect not only these animals, but potentially tens of thousands of animals across the country if we have an outbreak of one of these diseases,” he said.

The bill, he said, is also about protecting people with causes who work on farms, facilities and transport, as well as animals.

He said this legislation doesn’t stop whistleblowers either, adding “if it’s someone working on a farm and they see something… someone doing something that [they] shouldn’t, we want them to introduce themselves.”

“We want to protect our animals and we want to protect our food supply, and if someone is not following our very strict biosecurity rules and regulations and animal care regulations, we want them to be held accountable,” Barlow said.

“Hundreds of thousands of birds have been culled in Canada as a result of avian flu, there are real consequences and that is what we are trying to avoid with this legislation,” he said.

“You can imagine how difficult it is for a farming family to have to sacrifice the animals they have cared for, for a lifetime, it’s not just a matter of these animals dying, in many cases, a ranch for example, you have to slaughter that herd. “, he said, “is absolutely heartbreaking, and I’ve seen it firsthand.”

RELATED: Ontario Contested Over Law That Makes It Illegal for People to Disguise on Farms

Animal Justice attorney and executive director Camille Labchuk said she agrees that biosecurity is a concern, especially with bird flu spreading across the country, with farmers having to cull millions of birds such as chickens and ducks.

Labchuk says that some provinces have already passed laws that make it illegal for people in disguise to enter farms and slaughterhouses with the intention of reporting conditions, including Ontario, and this bill would make it an extra offense for someone to enter a farm without permission instead of actually protecting the animals and the food supply.

“Invading farms is already an offense,” Labchuk said, “invasion is not the source of biosecurity concerns on farms.”

Labchuk said Animal Justice analyzed federal data from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency “that goes back decades and looks at notifiable federal diseases,” and she said there has never been a case of an animal advocate breaking into a farm and introducing a disease.

“Usually the diseases come from the action of the farmers themselves because we know that here are the biosecurity protocols in this country that are notoriously poor,” she said.

She said many of the outbreaks investigated by the CFIA have been traced back to feeding sick animal parts to live animals, sharing needles and equipment, undisinfected trailers and farm animals exposed to wild animals with viruses.

If this project makes it to the committee’s study after the debate, Labchuk said he would support expanding the scope of the project so that it’s not just people who are on farms without permission, but include “farmers and rural workers too who don’t follow the rules, that create risk and that result in these situations where animals end up with disease and have to be killed en masse.”

“Legislation designed to clamp down on transparency and truth in the food system is inadequate,” she said.

“We’re in a country where we don’t actually regulate animal welfare on farms, let the industries make their own rules, and watch themselves and do their own job policing themselves, so the public has little opportunity to understand the reality. of the very worrying conduct that sometimes occurs on factory farms in this country,” Labchuk said.

Labchuk said that if Canadians want to see change, they need to get in touch with government officials and let them know their concerns.

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