The Government of Ontario is considering laws to protect the livestock and poultry industry from animal rights activists who trespass or conduct aggressive protests.

Ontario Minister of Agriculture Ernie Hardeman is assuring farmers the government will consider all options to shield farmers from activists who oppose their industry. Hardeman’s words come at a time when producers are pressing for action to prosecute people who trespass on their property or conduct protests at processing plants, reported CBC.

Ministry spokesperson Avi Yufest said the government is just as concerned as the producers are when it comes to the amount of high-profile protests that took place in the province during the past year.

Government officials are meeting with meat and poultry industry stakeholders to find a solution to the growing problem, and Yufest added “nothing is off the table.”

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Yufest noted that there are instances in which trespassing animal rights activists can cause harm to the animals by violating biosecurity protocols or by interfering with trucks who are transporting live animals.

Ag-gag laws in the United States

South of the Canadian border, a number of U.S. states have passed what are known as ag-gag laws, which typically make it illegal for a person to trespass on the premises of an agricultural operation or to attempt to obtain employment at such a facility under false pretenses.

However, some of those laws have been ruled unconstitutional. In January, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa struck down Iowa’s ag-gag law, stating it violates a person’s first-amendment rights for free speech. A similar thing occurred concerning an ag-gag law in Utah in 2017.

An Idaho ag-gag law was deemed unconstitutional is 2015, but an appeals court ruling in 2018 upheld portions of that ruling, but did make it unlawful for a person to falsely represent themselves in hopes of gaining employment or company records.