Everything is about to change for animal protection in Ontario. In March 2019, the Ontario SPCA announced it will no longer enforce animal cruelty laws in the province and is putting this public responsibility back in the hands of the government, where it belongs. The Ontario government is now surveying the public to help decide how… Read more » Animal Justice
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Prosecutors in London, Ontario withdrew all charges today against animal rights advocate Jenny McQueen. McQueen was facing charges of break and enter and mischief after entering a pig breeding facility in Lucan, Ontario that impregnates mother pigs so their piglets can be fattened up and sent to slaughter. Around 2,600 pigs are confined at the industrial-style breeding facility.
McQueen witnessed hell on earth inside the pig warehouse. She recorded footage of mother pigs confined in gestation crates, forced to produce litter after litter of piglets. Many of the mother pigs suffered from prolapse, with their organs protruding from their bodies. McQueen removed one baby piglet from the facility, who is now safe and healthy.
Prosecutors stated they were withdrawing the charges because there was no reasonable prospect of convicting McQueen. In other words, they felt they could not prove the case against her.
The charges against McQueen had been dubbed the “Pig Trial 2”, reminiscent of the trial of Anita Krajnc, who was acquitted of criminal mischief in 2017 for giving water to thirsty pigs on their way to slaughter. The acquittal came after a high-profile trial that garnered global media coverage and exposed the suffering of pigs in the farming system.
On the steps of the courthouse, McQueen called the day “an absolute win for animal rights activism”, but noted that she was disappointed her case would not get to trial because “so many people needed to hear what is happening” inside industrial farms. She promised to continue to raise awareness because animal agriculture is concealing the truth from consumers, “lying to the general public with terms like ‘humane’ and ‘well-cared for’.”
McQueen’s lawyer Gary Grill noted that charging animal advocates is a huge waste of court resources, but also a tremendous opportunity to expose the cruel reality of modern farming. Grill stated that he was unaware of whether the animal farming industry had pushed for the charges against McQueen to be laid, or had asked for them to be withdrawn, but that criminal trials are damaging to the farming industry because disturbing footage of cruelty is inevitably played in court.
Grill stated that as animal advocacy continues to intensify, he anticipates intense, well-funded lobbying on behalf of the meat and fur industries, who want to turn activism into a serious terrorism offence and introduce ag gag-style restrictions on filming conditions on farms.
This lobbying may already be underway. Last month, Animal Justice reported that a fur industry representative asked the House of Commons Agriculture Committee to enact US-style terrorism laws to lock up activists who expose cruelty on fur farms.
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After hearing arguments from Animal Justice lawyers, an Ontario court has ruled that animal law enforcement by the OSPCA—a private charity—is unconstitutional because the agency is not sufficiently accountable or transparent.
Animal Justice intervened in the case of Bogaerts v Attorney General of Ontario, a legal challenge to the OSPCA’s investigative and police powers that was heard in a courthouse in Perth, Ontario in May 2018. Animal Justice was in court to ensure the best interests of animals were front and centre.
Animal Justice has long been concerned that while the public cares deeply about animal protection, the government pushes responsibility for enforcing animal protection laws onto a private charity.
The OSPCA receives minimal funding and must fundraise to support its operations. Animal Justice pointed out that this itself could be a conflict of interest as the organization may receive donations from the very individuals it may be investigating.
The OSPCA is also not subject to reasonable transparency, accountability, or oversight like other public law enforcement agencies, such as the police. For example, police services legislation and freedom of information laws don’t apply to the OSPCA, nor is it subject to oversight by the Ombudsman.
Because of Animal Justice’s arguments on behalf of animals, the court recognized a new principle of fundamental justice: That an agency with police or investigative powers must be transparent and accountable, or it will not comply with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The Ontario government now has an incredible opportunity to review animal law enforcement, and ensure in the best possible way that it will benefit and protect animals from cruelty. Animal protection laws are currently the only laws still enforced by a private agency, and we are hopeful the decision will acknowledge government responsibility to lead the way and adequately fund animal protection.
The court has given the province 12 months to introduce a new system. It is not yet clear whether the province will appeal the decision.
Thank you for standing by our side to ensure our lawyers can represent animals in court when they cannot speak for themselves. We’ll keep you updated on how the government moves forward after this legal outcome, and let you know how the province’s future decisions in this matter will affect animals.
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