Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario Commentary
By Suzanne Armstrong, CFFO Director of Research
Although the activists at the courthouse on May 4th celebrated the dismissal of charges of mischief against the protestor who gave water to pigs in transport, in fact, that was only a small positive outcome for the protestors from the trial. The bigger victory for the activists was that this case raised a lot of conversation in the media about treatment of animals.
Sitting in the courtroom along with other farm organization representatives from CFFO, Farm and Food Care, Ontario Pork and OFA, listening to Justice D. Harris reading his statement, I was reassured that the justice system sees the world as farmers would hope. The judge pointed out that the industry is highly regulated and found that the farmer and transporter were legally handling the pigs in transport. In response to any notion that the protestor was alleviating the pigs from thirst by giving them water, he pointed out that “all of the pigs would have been given water a few minutes later in any event.”
Farmers became concerned, following the media coverage of the trial, that the activists’ agenda to have pigs treated as “persons” might come to fruition. However, the judge also clearly ruled that pigs, as well as cats and dogs, are property in Canadian law. Despite the efforts of the activists and their lawyers, the judgment reaffirmed that agriculture in Canada meets high standards concerning the treatment of pigs and other farm animals.
This was a charge of mischief. Because the protestor did not force the truck to stop, did not prevent the truck from continuing, and did not interfere with the acceptance of the load of pigs at the processing plant, the judge did not find that she was guilty of mischief.
The judge pointed out in his statement that “the industry … is being subjected to a high degree of scrutiny.” This trial is a clear indication that that scrutiny will continue. All members of the agricultural sector, be that farmers, farm workers, truck drivers, or processors, need to remember that they are representatives of agriculture in the public eye.
For farmers, it is important to look beyond the line of protestors with their signs and remember the average person still wants to enjoy our high quality Canadian meat and dairy products, but they want to know that they have come from animals raised to high standards of food safety and animal welfare. I am confident that the good work farmers do in this regard is up to or exceeds the standards that consumers expect.
More and more farmers and farm organizations are working to tell the story of the good work farmers are doing every single day. While it may not be a flashy story, it is still an important story to tell.