Lambton County farmers are fed up with what they call aggressive animals rights activism, an issue plaguing mainly livestock farmers across Canada.
Don McCabe of Inwood, a former president of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, spoke to Lambton County council about the issue on Sept. 4.
Speaking on behalf of the Lambton Federation of Agriculture, McCabe made a case for farmers worried about at-home trespassing, vandalism, and theft — crimes the organization says are going overlooked by Ontario’s court system. He cited a court case earlier this year in which charges were dropped against animal rights activist Jenny McQueen, who shared photos and videos from inside a Lucan-area farm.
“These people are coming together to protest because they consider any form of animal husbandry to be mistreatment,” McCabe said. “The reality is we’re seeing more and more of this.”
The concerns are nothing new. But the province is beginning to listen, Warwick mayor Jackie Rombouts said, citing a conversation she had with Progressive Conservative MPP Ernie Hardeman at the Association of Municipalities of Ontario conference this summer. Hardeman is Ontario’s agriculture minister.
“It was really important for me to put a face behind the (farm safety) resolution that we had passed, to really give him an idea of what was happening,” Rombouts said after the county council meeting. “He was fantastic. He totally understands where we’re coming from.”
Farmers did not necessarily score a legal win at the Sept. 4 meeting, settling instead for the official support of county council. After the meeting Sarnia councillor Bill Dennis said he would bring their safety concerns to city council as well.
“I know myself, as a livestock producer, I have concerns,” said George Dickenson, a Lambton Federation of Agriculture member and long-time mental health advocate. “But I’m happy with their response. I’m happy Jackie brought the motion forward. I guess it’s (more about) the response that happens at the provincial level, the legal level.”
“I think they all get it,” added Gary Martin, another Lambton Federation of Agriculture member.
The concerns fall into two categories. Lambton County farmers, already worried about a projected loss in annual crop sales they call “unprecedented,” are worried about their personal safety and the safety of their staff, as well as truck drivers.
Video cameras do not help either, Martin said, not when Internet speeds are spotty (at best) in many places around the region.
The other issue is with the justice system, where McCabe says criminal activity is often overlooked and charges against animal rights activists, like McQueen, are often dropped.
“The real issue now comes to the lack of prosecution and convictions, even in the face of evidence,” McCabe told county council members. “It would be nice to see a crown attorney actually do their job.”
From The Sarnia Observer