Chilliwack-Kent MLA Laurie Throness says farmers in the Fraser Valley are receiving threats of violence from activists intent on shutting down the practice of animal husbandry.
This year there have been a number of incidents of anti-meat activists attending events or trespassing on farms in protest.
To crack down on the behaviour, Throness introduced the Trespass Amendment Act 2019 to “add specific and targeted penalties against those who trespass on farms,” he said on Oct. 29 in the Legislature.
“It will also protect food processing facilities from trespass and provide even greater penalties to address a greater threat: a breach of biosecurity protocols when trespassing, since an outbreak of disease can take the lives of hundreds of thousands of animals and threaten an entire industry.”
He said further that penalties will be applied to organizations, such as PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), that encourage the trespass or occupation of farms. This is something the government of Alberta has done.
In April, about 60 activists entered the Excelsior Hog Farm in Abbotsford in response to what they claimed was hidden video footage showing animals in distress.
Throness said that, in part, is what motivated him to take action with legislation, but what really hit home was visiting Creekside Dairy in Agassiz, which is run by Julaine and Johannes Treur.
“They emailed me to ask for help so I went out to see them, tour their farm and hear their story and read some of the Facebook messages they received, which were alarming,” Throness told The Progress.
“Activists haven’t actually occupied any farms as yet in my riding, but they are talking about it on Direct Action Everywhere Vancouver’s Facebook page. They had a planning meeting this fall called ‘Dairy is Scary.’”
In bringing forth his act in the Legislature, Throness acknowledged that the NDP government recently adopted an opposition motion to include farms and livestock under the Trespass act but he said “there is much more to be done.”
“It’s fine for protesters to demonstrate about anything they want, but let them do so on public property,” he said. “It’s not all right to break the law, take away the rights of our farmers and threaten the safety of their families and livestock while making their point.”
The BC Liberals announced the Trespass Amendment Act at the same time Delta South MLA Ian Paton put forth the Home-Based Craft Food Act to allow home-based businesses to make and sell low-risk food products.
And both came under the broad call alongside dozens of farmers for the NDP to recall Bill 52, which, in part, restricts secondary homes on farms, a “devastating” policy for farmers, the BC Liberals say.