On 30th October 2023, the animal rights group Animal Justice argued in a Toronto courtroom that the Security from Trespass and Protecting Food Safety Act, an Ontario law that bans undercover investigations of animal cruelty on farms and slaughterhouses, is unconstitutional, and violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
This ag-gag law took effect in 2020, days before the animal rights activist Regan Russell was fatally hit by a truck carrying a load of pigs, banning animal advocates from going undercover to investigate animal cruelty at agricultural facilities.
Dozens of people gathered outside the Superior Court of Justice on University Avenue, Toronto, Canada, when Andrea Gonsalves, a lawyer for Animal Justice, told the court that the animal advocates would like the provisions of the act and the regulation that they are challenging to be declared of no force or effect under Section 52 of the Constitution Act. She said, “At the core of this case is the protection and upholding of the fundamental freedom of expression in the context where expressive activity is focused on the treatment and welfare of animals in our farming industry. This is a matter of profound concern to all Ontarians…Where do the animals we consume come from and how are they treated?”
Camille Labchuk, executive director of Animal Justice, said the law enables agricultural facilities to cover up animal abuse. She added, “It makes it illegal for an advocate, or a journalist to go undercover on a farm and expose hidden cruelty on hidden camera…These types of exposes have resulted in charges and convictions against farms for illegal cruelty. They’ve exposed practices that the public finds unacceptable, like keeping animals caged in tiny crates, and like workers hitting or punching animals…These exposes have tremendous value to the public and it should not be the case that you cannot expose this abuse.”
In a statement, Ontario’s Ministry of the Attorney General said the province’s position is that the law and its regulation are constitutional.