Animal activist died trying to expose what Bill 156 will hide


By Jessica Scott-Reid, Contributor, The Toronto Star (Canada)

June 23, 2020


Scott-Reid is a writer and animal rights advocate.


Late last week an Ontario woman was run over and killed by a semi-truck outside of Fearmans Pork slaughterhouse in Burlington. Details surrounding the incident have yet to be revealed, but what is known now is that Regan Russell, 65, was a long-time animal and human rights activist who was there to bear witness to the pigs on that truck. She was there because the secrecy enshrouding meat, dairy and egg production, and lack of legal oversight concerning farmed animal welfare forced her to be there. She was there because it is only outside of those trucks that concerned citizens can gain a mere moment of interaction with the animals, to document their conditions, and to show compassion before they are trucked off into the darkness. On this day in particular, Russell was there because soon, the newly passed Bill 156 will make it illegal to do so, and soon that darkness will grow much darker.


Russell witnessed animals used and abused in awful ways for many years, says Jenny McQueen, a well-known Toronto activist and friend of Russell. Russell was absolutely committed to speaking up on behalf of the animals and showing that, week after week, people need to do the right thing. Russell attended slaughterhouse vigils regularly, participated in a recent Black Lives Matter protest, and was a strong womenís rights advocate. There are so many instances when she was standing up for the oppressed, McQueen says.


Vigils have been held outside of Fearmans Pork for several years, organized by international animal rights group The Save Movement, which originated in Toronto. Typically, peaceful activists stand outside of slaughterhouses on public land, and, when trucks hauling live animals pull up, drivers are asked to stop for two minutes to allow activists to provide water, document conditions, and offer some words of apology, love and comfort. Vigils are extremely powerful, says McQueen. If you go, and connect, and look an animal in the eye, in person, itís life-changing.


With the passing of Bill 156, the Security from Trespass and Protecting Food Safety Act, however, individuals who interact with animals in this way could soon be fined up to $15,000.


Tensions between vigil participants and some truck drivers have been bubbling for years, but for the most part the requested two minutes is usually provided without incident. Since the passing of Bill 156 just days before Russellís death, though, activists canít help but wonder if the industry, including that truck driver, may be feeling emboldened.


In Canada, there are no laws overseeing...