TORONTO ­– Provincial lawmakers in Ontario, Canada, plan to hear public comments on Bill 156, Security from Trespass and Protecting Food Safety Act, 2020, which the government said is aimed at protecting farmers and farm animals from unlawful trespass. However, opponents of the law said the bill is an attempt to stifle anti-cruelty efforts.

Standing Committee on General Government has scheduled public hearings in London, Ontario, and Northumberland – Peterborough South on March 27 and on March 30. Those who do not attend the meeting but wish to comment on the bill may send a written submission by 5:00 p.m. (EDT) on March 30.

Bill 156 “…is intended to protect farm animals, the food supply, farmers and others from risks that are created when trespassers enter places where farm animals are kept or when persons engage in unauthorized interactions with farm animals.”

Toronto Pig Save, an animal welfare group, launched a petition against the bill and expressed concerns that the bill is an attempt to hide animal cruelty on farms.

“Ag-gag Bill 156 specifically targets animal rights groups like Toronto Pig Save and a dozen other Save groups in Ontario that are part of the global Animal Save Movement,” the group said. “Activists peacefully bear witness to farmed animals outside slaughterhouses, provide water to animals, and document their suffering.”

The bill prohibits people from entering animal protection zones without the prior consent of the owner or occupier of the farm, facility or premises. The bill also states that consent is invalid if it is obtained using duress or under false pretenses. Penalties for violating the law include a maximum fine of C$15,000 for a first offence and C$25,000 for subsequent offences. In certain circumstances the fine may be increased by a court.