Keeping Animal Abuse Hidden in British Columbia: Bill M227

On October 28, 2019, British Columbia’s MLA for Chilliwack-Kent, Laurie Throness, introduced a private member’s bill, M227 – Trespass Amendment Act, along with Delta South MLA Ian Paton. This bill specifically targets animal activists seeking to expose the cruelty that is happening on farms across British Columbia.

Laurie Throness says the bill will add specific penalties to activists trespassing on farms, and following in Alberta’s footsteps, will also add targeted penalties to organizations advocating for the exposure of animal cruelty on farms. At the time of writing, the details of Bill M227 have not been published, but Laurie Throness’ speech in the legislature outlines its aims.

Laurie Throness’ introduction of this bill comes as a direct response to an action at Excelsior Hog Farm in Abbotsford earlier this year, where activists entered a pig farm and documented the conditions that pigs were living in. This action revealed horrendous neglect, cruelty, and violent abuse towards pigs by the farmers of Excelsior. Undercover footage showed piglets being tossed around by workers, being prodded in the face, workers castrating piglets without analgesic, children kicking piglets, pigs being dragged by workers, pigs struggling to walk to due to infection and disease, the list goes on.

This kind of abuse is common practice in the animal agriculture industry. What happened at Excelsior Hog Farm in Abbotsford is not an isolated incident. It is clear from undercover videos such as the one taken at Excelsior Hog Farm and countless other videos from factory farms across Canada that it is the animals that need greater protections from harm, not the farmers. By introducing this bill, Laurie Throness completely ignores the suffering of farm animals and instead is making it easier for farmers to abuse and mistreat animals in total secrecy, behind closed doors and hidden from the public eye.

The Abbotsford action was highly publicized and covered by every major media organization in Canada, including CBC, CTV, Global, the Globe and Mail, National Post, and the Vancouver Sun. By drafting this amendment, it is impossible that Laurie Throness was not aware of the animal cruelty that occurred at Excelsior Hog farm, yet proceeded with introducing the bill anyway.

This is the undercover footage from Excelsior Hog Farm in Abbotsford. Warning: the footage is disturbing.

The Good News

Laurie Throness is a Liberal MLA and a member of the Official Opposition in BC. Bill M227 is a private member’s bill which would require majority support in the legislature to be passed into law. This means members of the governing NDP party along with Green Party MLAs would need to support this bill. Citizens need to make it clear to their elected representatives that Bill M227 is the wrong approach to this issue. Government support of this bill would condone the violence and abuse that is inflicted on farm animals across British Columbia.

There wouldn’t be the need for activists to enter factory farms to document animal abuse if the government strengthened its protections for the welfare of farm animals and increased transparency on farms. These are the kinds of changes that should be introduced, as it aligns with the government’s mandate for animal welfare.

The BC Government website on Animal Welfare states:

In addition to the provincial Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act having among the toughest penalties in Canada, and providing funding to animal welfare efforts and organizations around the province, the B.C. government also supports animal welfare with contributions through government programs.

Animal welfare programs focus on:

• education to increase knowledge of the animal welfare challenges facing the industry
• awareness building on the correct livestock production practices for supportive animal welfare
• training on mitigation steps available to support correct practices applied in animal welfare
• scientific investigations to address any gaps identified to meet these ends

Take Action

Email your local MLA and/or the Minister of Agriculture in BC, Lana Popham at AGR.Minister@gov.bc.ca and let them know that BC needs to affirm its commitment to the welfare of animals and reject Bill M227. Farm animals suffer horrendous lives in factory farms, and it is the government’s responsibility to ensure animal welfare standards are met. Use this template or use your own messaging to send a message to your elected representative.

Dear MLA,

A private member’s bill was introduced on October 28, 2019 by Chilliwack-Kent MLA, Laurie Throness. Bill M227, Trespass Amendment Act, seeks to target animal activists that are trying to expose animal cruelty taking place on farms across British Columbia.

This bill is a direct response to activists entering Excelsior Hog Farm in Abbotsford in April of this year. The footage that came out of Excelsior Hog Farm demonstrated horrendous animal cruelty towards pigs by its farmers. Bill M227 is the wrong approach to addressing animal welfare concerns on farms. This bill seeks to keep abuse of this kind hidden from the public.

I am asking you to not support this bill and reject any further readings in the legislature. The BC Government has stated on its website that it is committed to animal welfare. BC should uphold its commitment to animal welfare by introducing stronger regulations, government oversight, and transparency of the animal agriculture industry, rather than targeting citizens who are committed to improving the welfare of farm animals in BC.

Thank you for listening to my concern. I look forward to your continued commitment to animal welfare in British Columbia.