Animal rights activists say they are not being given the same opportunity to speak out on Bill 156 as other organizations. Bill 156, the Security from Trespass and Protecting Food Safety Act, 2020 will prevent activists from accessing and exposing abusive treatment of livestock in farms, slaughterhouses, and transport vehicles by both staff and production processes.
Members of New Wave Activism say this bill effectively terminates their ability to “bear witness”: drawing close to the side of the trailer, documenting the condition of the animals, and offering some water, which the animals may not have had for up to 40 hours. It’s an action which is crucial to the movement’s vigils in the area, and all over the world.
New Wave Activism bears witness multiple times a week at Fearmans’ Pork, Harvester Road in Burlington.They hold signs, do outreach, and try to raise awareness as to what happens to animals destined for the slaughterhouse. . However, their most important activity is stopping the trucks to bear witness to the pigs.
Julie Brar, long-time member of NWA., said, “Bearing witness means offering to the animal what may be the first compassion they’ve ever received. For a sentient being, compassion is a fundamental right.”
In order for activists to bear witness, trucks need to stop, which often happens at red lights, but which can also be done voluntarily at a drivers’ and his company’s discretion. However, Brar noted many of the truck drivers are uncooperative, and many activists have reported increasingly aggressive driving, with trucks breaking traffic laws regularly, while police look the other way.
“We have footage of trucks accelerating through the intersection and running red lights in full view of police, who look the other way,” Brar said. “Its giving us the distinct impression that the police are not neutral participants.”.
It’s gotten worse, Brar said, since the death of local activist Regan Russell, a native of Hamilton, who was killed June 19 by a transport truck at the gates of Fearman’s Pork, while she was walking through the crosswalk. Many of the group witnessed the tragic event, and agree, the truck drivers are becoming much more aggressive with Bill 156 looming.
Of Bill 156, Brar said the public needs to understand what activists do is not “tampering” or interfering with their business – the trucks don’t stop running altogether – but maybe for a brief moment, the animals in transport might feel some measure of comfort. It also allows activists to get close enough to determine the condition of the animals, which would go a long way to keeping welfare checks and balances in place for the animals and ensure transparency within the industries. In fact, some drivers, those who tend to cooperate with the activists and stop for them voluntarily, have said since they have to wait for a while inside the gates to be off-loaded anyway, it could just as easily be for those few minutes outside the gates.
“We just want a chance to make our message heard. This bill is designed to obscure the industry from the public’s purview,” she said, adding she wondered what they were trying to hide.
“Forget transparency. You think you know what you are getting because they have to put ingredients on packages, but that doesn’t account for what happens to the animals themselves from birth to death. Their treatment has a huge impact not only on the animals themselves, but also consumers,” Brar said. “With this Bill, it will all be swept under the rug.”
The Provincial Animal Welfare Services (PAWS) Act, which came into effect January 1, 2020, which the industry offers as a viable tool, offers protection for all animals with basic care, food, shelter and transportation – but lists certain exceptions, which could be applied to livestock.
“Basically, they are considered commodities not sentient beings who deserve life as much as we do,” Brar said.
“Two minutes is all we ask to compassionately commune with these living sentient beings. It’s not too much to ask when the end result, their egregious death, is forever.”