Op-ed: Ensuring that animal industries cannot legislate their way out of negative publicity

In a landmark decision, the Ontario Superior Court recently struck down a provincial “ag-gag” law, affirming support for both whistleblowers and journalists dedicated to exposing animal cruelty in Canada’s factory farms. Mercy For Animals celebrates this ruling, which challenges questionable attempts to pass unconstitutional anti-whistleblower legislation.

For decades, undercover investigations have exposed appalling animal abuse behind closed doors. Ag-gag laws, aimed at preventing such disclosure by criminalizing undercover employment in farms, have been deemed unconstitutional in six U.S. states. Ontario has set a groundbreaking precedent as the first Canadian province to overturn this contentious legislation, a decision that resonates deeply with Mercy For Animals’ relentless pursuit of fairness and transparency.

Animal industries claim to value transparency and high standards of care, but the push for anti-whistleblower laws suggests otherwise. Undercover exposés in Canada have resulted in convictions, fines and increasing public pressure to end horrendous practices like intensive confinement in cages and mutilations without anesthetics.

Justice Markus Koehnen’s ruling lays bare the agriculture industry’s lack of public trust and interrogates the legality of its practices. After the case was heard, Justice Koehnen remained unclear on which abusive farm practices were “acceptable” and therefore lawful and which were not. He found that portions of the law violated freedom of expression under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and he emphasized the importance of undercover work. Justice Koehnen argued that punishing those who reveal uncomfortable truths infringes on fundamental rights of expression.

Ontario’s recent ruling marks a crucial triumph in ensuring that animal industries cannot legislate their way out of negative publicity. Mercy For Animals applauds this decision as a significant milestone in our ongoing mission to promote the humane treatment of animals.

PJ Nyman is the corporate engagement manager at Mercy For Animals Canada and holds a master’s degree in social and political theory from York University.

Mercy For Animals is a leading international nonprofit working to end industrial animal agriculture by constructing a just and sustainable food system. Active in Brazil, Canada, India, Mexico, and the United States, the organization has conducted more than 100 investigations of factory farms and slaughterhouses, influenced more than 500 corporate policies, and helped pass historic legislation to ban cages for farmed animals. Join us at MercyForAnimals.org.