By Tom Collins
As animal activists continue to step up their brazen attempts to stop animal agriculture, a prominent Ontario agricultural lawyer says farmers should stop inviting the public into their barns.
That reaction comes on the heels of 15 activists storming into a Wellington County dairy barn on March 9 and removing a dead calf.
By following the activists on social media, the Dairy Farmers of Ontario knew the activists were planning to target three Ontario dairy barns within a 75-minute drive of Toronto on that day and sent word out to members to be on the lookout.
The stop at Webstone Holsteins seems to have been a spur-of-the-moment decision, as farm owner Lloyd Weber has plenty of calf hutches that are visible from the road.
The theory is the activists saw the hutches while driving by and decided they might find something there.
The activists broke into the barn despite Weber asking them to leave. They found a dead calf and removed it to reportedly give it what they called a proper burial.
It took the police at least an hour to respond. Weber is not pressing charges, as his wife was expecting to give birth to the couple’s seventh child the week after the break-in.
Ottawa ag lawyer Kurtis Andrews opined that farms should stop inviting the public into their barns, especially in response to activists’ demands to see how farming is done.
“These activists will never be satisfied and will only use the information to harm the industry through misrepresentation,” Andrews wrote on his web site kurtis
andrews.ca. “You cannot appease the unappeasable. Trust and transparency will not go unpunished.
“The zealous nature of animal-rights activists is nothing short of a fundamentalist movement. There is a religious-fervour to their beliefs and actions. It is not enough for them to believe in their own philosophical principles. They are determined to impose their beliefs on other people, and nothing, not even the law, appears to be enough to stop them.”
Not everyone agrees that farmers should stop inviting the public. Executive director of Farm & Food Care Ontario, Kelly Daynard, said there are plenty of groups who legitimately want to learn more about farming practices, and that about 70 per cent of Canadians want to learn more about where their food comes from.
“We’ve literally run hundreds of farm tours and events over the 14 years I’ve been with FFCO without a single problem or issue for the farmers who agreed to open their barn doors to our guests,” she said. “To not do tours like these would be a huge disservice to agriculture and would deprive people of some genuine learning opportunities.”
Daynard does add that activists should never be invited onto farms. Farm & Food Care Ontario does have advice to help farmers protect themselves.
• Post no entry, no trespassing and/or biosecurity signage;
• Lock your milkhouse and office;
• Be observant. Report any suspicious activity, persons and vehicles;
• Have a conversation with family and staff about visitor protocols and have protocols set;
• Have an emergency plan in place and ensure family and staff know what to do in an emergency. Reach out to your neighbours and ask them to keep an eye out for suspicious activity;
• Develop a relationship with your local police services. If you think you may be a target, reaching out to police in advance of an incident is a good idea.
These invasions are occurring with more frequency. Numerous Ontario mink farms have been invaded by activists. In the U.K., things are worse. About 50 activists went into a hog farm on March 2 to cuddle with the animals and show their love. Activists disrupted the animals’ feeding schedules, stressed out the pigs and put piglets back in the wrong pens. Two piglets died.
“They were picking piglets up, cuddling them — there was a lot of screaming going on,” the farmer told BBC news. “Piglets don’t want to be cuddled.”
Other animal activists posted names and locations of more than 9,000 dairy farmers in England and Wales in January, advising people to visit the farms and film the responses of farmers answering questions about dairy farming practices.
Dairy Farmers of Ontario chair Murray Sherk, who farms at Plattsville in Oxford County, said activists are looking for attention and it is important dairy farmers not create a scene.
“The more attention you bring to it, that is really what (activists) are after,” he said. “To make the incidents as boring as possible is really what should happen.”
Sherk said the incident has hit home for milk producers, with farmers calling the DFO asking what can they do to be prepared.
The DFO is developing a tool kit for farmers on what to do in these situations — it should be released in the next couple of months — but the key is to have a police presence during a protest by activists, said Sherk.