Two opposing groups organized their own protests outside of a pork plant in Ontario this week in response to a proposed bill that could protect livestock haulers from further harassment. 

Animals rights activists and truck drivers alike set up shop outside of Fearmans Pork, advocating both for the rights of animals and for the rights of truck drivers. 

Back in June, a protest against the use of pigs for food led to the death of a protester, Regan Russell, after she got in the way of a tractor trailer attempting to make a delivery to the plant. This tragedy led to charges against the 28-year-old truck driver and an uptick in protests outside of the plant. 

On Thursday, pro-truck driver groups set up shop on one side and animal rights activists on the other, holding signs advising people to “Stay away from trucks” and “Put safety first,” along with “Go vegan for Regan,” and “This is about the animals, not truckers.”

Both groups are gathered in response to recent bill proposal – Bill 156: Ontario’s Security from Trespass and Protecting Food Safety Act.

Once enacted, the legislation would “prohibit stopping or interfering with motor vehicles transporting farm animals, or interacting with the farm animals without explicit prior consent. There are also several trespassing-related measures that focus on farms and processing facilities themselves,” reported Truck News.

“The protesters are harassing drivers and farmers alike,” said truck driver and farmer TJ Medway, who was involved with Thursday’s protest. 

“This has been going on for eight, nine years now, and it should never have gone on for this long to begin with,” said Tyler Jutzi, vice-president and part owner of Brussels Transport, one of the largest livestock haulers in the region. “It’s nice to finally see that our side’s being shared. The agricultural community is behind us and the truckers. Every driver that drives through here today finally sees some support on their side.”

“Activists are not respecting vehicle blind spots,” Jutzi continued.

 “When you’re turned crooked in there, you can’t see down the passenger side at all and they don’t respect that. Sometimes you’ll be pulled in, turned cockeyed, and they’ll be on your driver’s side so you can’t see any of them.”

“I’m all for protesting, but I don’t believe that people should be on the road,” said truck driver Kristy Perrin, who grew up on a pig farm. “When those hogs come in, they’re calm and they’re relaxed. But all [the animal rights activists] are doing is making them upset. And the longer they’re out on the road, the longer it takes for them to get into the barns where there’s water and misters.”

Still, animal rights activists argue that Bill 156 is part of the government’s plot to “hide the truth.”

“This is a peaceful protest. Breaking and entering is always illegal, so there are already laws in place to protect private property and possessions,” she said.

“We’ve never been aggressive. We’ve always done our two minutes and had respect for the drivers. We come with nothing but peace signs and waves and we say thank you every time,” Desgagne said.

“I have a lot of respect for truckers as a profession,” she continued.

“I don’t really distinguish between a pig trucker versus a non-pig trucker. They all deserve the same safety on the job, but of course it takes an extra level of discipline you can say to have to use an electric prod to hit the animals so that they get unloaded and loaded. But that’s just a part of their job that they are forced to do and, you know what I mean, they probably don’t want to be doing that.”

“I know this sounds dramatic, but [the protests are now in a] more of a militant fashion,” said Jeff Miller, a Brussels Transport driver, who has been hauling livestock for about three decades.

 “The harassment has definitely increased. The intimidation tactics that they use definitely increase … We’re all entitled to a safe, harassment-free workplace.”

“You’re sitting there for your five minutes, getting yelled at, called a murderer. I’ve been compared to Hitler,” Jutzi said.

“You feel pretty isolated in that truck.”

Although there is hope that Bill 156 could help solve this issue, it will all depend on its enforcement.

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