Animal Advocates, or Poor Farm Practices? is a report published by Animal Justice in July 2023. The report examines the causes and consequences of disease outbreaks on Canadian farms, and challenges the claims of the animal agriculture industry that animal advocates pose a threat to biosecurity. The report argues that ag gag laws, which criminalize whistleblowing and protests on farms, are not based on evidence and do not address the true sources of disease outbreaks, which are often related to poor farming practices and standard agricultural activities.
The report challenges the validity of ag gag laws, which criminalize actions such as whistleblowing and protests within farm settings, contending that these measures lack a solid evidence-based foundation. Instead of effectively addressing the root causes of disease outbreaks, which often stem from subpar farming methods and standard agricultural procedures, these laws seem to be misplaced.
To substantiate its claims, the report draws upon data sourced from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), a body entrusted with the task of monitoring and investigating significant disease outbreaks in Canada. Highlighting diseases that hold considerable implications for human and animal health, as well as the Canadian economy, the report provides a comprehensive list of potential sources for infectious agents. These sources span from live animals and their by-products to various elements such as clothing, equipment, feed, and even environmental factors like air quality.
In addition, the report presents a detailed chronicle of noteworthy disease outbreaks that have transpired on Canadian farms since the year 2000. These include instances of avian influenza, bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), bovine tuberculosis, porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED), and the emergence of SARS-CoV-2.
Contrary to popular narratives, the report's findings reveal that disease outbreaks have never been definitively attributed to animal advocacy activities or protests in close proximity to farming facilities. These forms of activism do not appear to carry inherent risk factors for causing disease propagation. Instead, the report underscores that many biosecurity concerns arise due to substandard farming practices, often traceable back to the actions of farm proprietors and operators themselves.
For example, a case study involving COVID-19 infections on mink farms in British Columbia demonstrates that the primary source of infection was confirmed to be the farm workers' exposure to the virus. Similarly, the report highlights instances where farm workers have inadvertently facilitated the spread of diseases like avian flu.
It concludes that the basis for ag gag legislation lacks a solid empirical foundation. Rather than truly safeguarding biosecurity or ensuring food supply integrity, the rhetoric surrounding "biosecurity" has been wielded to justify the imposition of restrictive ag gag laws. These laws effectively muzzle and penalize individuals who seek to document and raise awareness about the welfare conditions of animals within Canada's agricultural domain.
Urging for a more comprehensive regulatory framework, the report advocates for robust measures to genuinely address biosecurity issues on farms. Such measures are envisioned to proactively prevent disease outbreaks, thereby mitigating significant risks posed to animals, producers, food safety, and the wider public.