Barlow tries again to get bill passed to keep trespassers out of livestock barns

Trespassing creates huge biosecurity risks for farms.Ottawa-Conservative agriculture critic John Barlow is trying again to get a bill passed by Parliament to make it illegal for trespassers to enter livestock barns and to provide for fines on organizations that encourage such intrusions.He introduced a bill in 2020 to do that but it died when Parliament was dissolved for the 2021 election. In early May, he finally was able to reintroduce the bill, which he noted had the support of the other parties in the Commons the last time.The bill was inspired by the experiences of some farmers in his Alberta riding whose property was invaded by trespassers. In addition to the issue of private property, there is biosecurity of the livestock on the farm and the mental health of the family running it, he said.There are very strict biosecurity protocols that farm families have to follow to protect the biosecurity and the health of those animals, Barlow said. Some provinces have enacted biosecurity protection but Parliament has “a leadership role to indicate that there is a line that cannot be crossed.“What this really focuses on is the biosecurity risk and the health of our animals. We saw what COVID did to Canada's economy, a human-borne virus. It devastated not only our economy but economies around the world. Imagine what a similar animal-borne pandemic would do to Canada's agriculture industry. Right now we are experiencing that with avian flu and chicken and egg producers across Canada.”The bill would not prevent people from protesting on public property about the issues that are important to them, he said. “They can hold those rallies and protests outside the farm gate but when enter the farm, they put the health of animals at risk as well as the mental health of our farm families at risk. There has to be a line there. There have to be strict rules in place to deter that action.”Francis Drouin, Parliamentary secretary for agriculture, said the government will support the bill if amended to specify on-farm biosecurity zones where animals must be protected. “Doing that would support the strong biosecurity measures that many farmers have already put in place.”This change would bring the matter “under federal jurisdiction because it would be more clearly related to agricultural operations inside the farm gate. It would also reinforce the benefit of biosecurity zones, which are an important part of agricultural practices to prevent the spread of animal disease,” Drouin said.Bloc Quebecois MP Yes Perron said, “Our farmers need additional protection so that they no longer have to experience the atrocities that they have endured over the past few months and years.” MPs need to think carefully about the impact of trespassing on farmers.Alistair MacGregor, NDP farm critic, said many diseases pose risks to farm livestock and farmers employ management practices that allow producers to prevent the movement of disease-causing agents onto and off their operations.“We know that visitors to farms can unknowingly bring harmful agents. They can bring them via contaminated clothing and footwear, with equipment and with their vehicles.”Barlow's bill still needs to pass second reading and be referred to the Commons agriculture committee for further study, which is unlikely to occur until the fall.