Another win for Walter Ray
Court punts animal activists from case involving beef farmer who has never been charged but faced $400,000 in animal care fees
OSHAWA — Activists with Animal Justice failed to gain intervenor status in an upcoming court appeal that pits Ontario’s animal police against Peterborough-area beef farmer Walter Ray over expensive cattle-boarding costs.
Provincial Animal Welfare Services (PAWS) is pursuing the appeal in Ontario Divisional Court after an Animal Care Review Board decision that favoured Ray, 77, who has not been charged with any animal welfare offences. The dispute was triggered when PAWS removed healthy beef cattle from Ray’s farm without his permission during a botched December 2021 round-up in which two animals died. The agency then tried to stick him with nearly $400,000 in foster care bills incurred as PAWS kept 101 of his cattle in limbo for five months. A Board adjudicator slashed the figure owing to just over $14,000 last August and reaffirmed that decision in January of this year. That prompted PAWS — through the Ministry of the Solicitor General — to seek a judicial review (the term used when appealing a tribunal decision in court). A panel of three judges will preside over the review scheduled sometime this September in Oshawa.
Meantime, Toronto-based animal activist group, Animal Justice, wanted to add its voice to the upcoming proceedings. But Justice Howard Leibovich dismissed the group’s bid to intervene as a “friend of the court.” In his May 16 ruling, Leibovich found that the group would present the same opinions as PAWS on the key issues under consideration anyway. “I have no doubt that their counsel would do an excellent job setting out their view, but … merely repeating a position is not the same as providing assistance to the court. Put another way, the panel hearing this appeal will have no difficulty addressing the issues at play without the participation of the proposed intervenor,” the justice wrote.
Leibovich also rejected the group because their involvement would raise Ray’s legal costs, with no way for the farmer to recover that extra expense.
That prospect was already evident by Animal Justice instigating the hearing in the first place, as it fell to Ray’s lawyer, Bob Scriven, to argue for excluding the activists. By contrast, the legal meter wasn’t running that day for PAWS, which didn’t bother to send a lawyer, a fact that particularly irked Norwood beef farmer John Lunn, who has been assisting Walter Ray and wife Gwenda through their legal odyssey.
Lunn commended Scriven for a job well done in the hearing. “Bob won, hand over fist, thank God,” he said. “He’s amazing at this kind of work.”
Lunn said that the Rays are holding up OK and have found it “some bloody relief” that Animal Justice won’t be intruding on their case. “They’re getting tired.”
Animal Justice has made headlines in the past for releasing undercover video from inside farm operations. The group has also launched a constitutional challenge of Ontario’s strengthened farm-trespass law that went into effect in 2020.