Southgate Township is getting behind other Ontario communities who are calling for stronger farm security legislation.
Deputy Mayor Brian Milne says 'farm invasions' are a real concern, referring to an increase across the country of protesters trespassing on farms and intercepting livestock transfers.
The township recently sent a letter the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.
Milne says, "It's particularly scary because you don't know what they're going to do...there's an issue of biosecurity, are they going to contaminate or injure the animals?"
While there have been no such recent invasions to his knowledge in Southgate, Milne claims the police tend to take a very hands-off approach calling it, "Very, very frustrating."
Ontario Federation of Agriculture Director for the Grey County area, Hugh Simpson says, the issue is "top of mind" for many local farmers.
"We've had examples in Grey and Bruce Counties of this happening, where someone takes it upon themselves to trespass and maybe they are taking photographs, or we've heard instances of an animal actually being lifted and taken off of a farm. We've also had examples of livestock transportation being obstructed. We consider those to be really, barn and farm invasions."
Simpson says farmers do support protecting animals from cruelty.
He says they also support the right to protest, "We support the idea of freedom of speech and expression, but we draw a limit at trespassing."
But he feels current legislation doesn't go far enough to protect farms and ag communities are asking the government to, "Make it clear that unless you are invited onto a farm, then you should consider it to be private property and you should not go on that farm."
"It's related to biosecurity," says Simpson, "People entering barns that are not properly dressed for hygienic concerns." He says it's also a privacy issue.
Simpson thinks changes to the OSPCA (Ontario Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) left a hole in how the public reports what they feel is animal abuse or animal cruelty.
The government has new legislation called PAWS (Provincial Animal Welfare Services) in place to essentially replace those OSPCA protocols.
In addressing sentiments similar to Milne's about the role of law enforcement, Simpson says, "I think it's difficult for police services to lay charges and for prosecutors to successfully prosecute beyond just trespassing."
According to Simpson, earlier this year, Ontario Agriculture Minister Ernie Hardeman met with farmers to hear their concerns. It was also discussed at the annual Association of Municipalities of Ontario Conference (AMO).
Bayshore Broadcasting News reached out to the Ministry for a progress update. A spokesperson replied in an email, "The Minister is continuing to consult and has a number of meetings on this topic in the coming weeks with key stakeholders and people impacted by biosecurity breaches."
They go on to say, "Minister Hardeman is working hard to protect the safety and security of our farmers, our food processors and the sector as a whole.
It's important to remember that breaks in biosecurity don't just put the health and safety of farm animals at risk but also the integrity of our food system."
Around the country, recent instances of farm invasions include the September invasion of a Hutterite Turkey farm in Alberta, the April invasion of a hog farm in Abbotsford BC, and more locally this spring, charges were dropped against a woman accused of invading a pork farm in Lucan, and allegedly taking a piglet.