Points to Consider

Site Access 

  • Ensure “No Trespassing” signs are present at all farm access points and on fence lines;
  • Use gates and other appropriate barriers to block access to laneways (recognizing it may not be practical in all cases if this would impede farm operations);
  • Have printed site maps with clearly marked boundaries; these are helpful to share with police if a protest occurs;
  • Ensure barn areas and driveways are well lit and lighting is motion activated;
  • Install alarms to alert you to intruders during off hours. Audible alarms may also deter trespassers’ entry;
  • Mount security cameras or trail cameras at prime access points to your property and buildings to capture photographs or videos of trespassers. Footage obtained can be used for laying charges and in court proceedings; and
  • Remove keys and lock vehicles, especially if there are remote door openers in the vehicles.

Be alert. If someone unfamiliar comes onto your property, approach them and politely ask why they are there. If they do not need to be on your property, civilly ask them to leave. If someone refuses to leave, call police. Family members and employees also have the authority to deny access to unfamiliar individuals. Ensure employees are aware of the protocols you wish them to follow.

Record and report any suspicious activity to local police. Include as many details as possible, such as date and time, what happened, duration, person and/or vehicle description and license plate numbers. Include any pictures or video of the perpetrator of event.

All sales and service calls should be pre-arranged. Be wary of anyone showing up unannounced, especially from a company that you are not currently doing business with. For existing suppliers, if the sales or service personnel are not known to you, confirm with the business office. Call using the telephone number you typically use for that business, not one provided by the visitor.

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Social Media

Activists regularly monitor social media. Do not post information about a protest or unfortunate event (e.g. barn fire or truck rollover) to social media channels.

Be cautious of posting any photographs or videos of your farming operation online. The GPS location is often accessible by viewers and will allow them to learn the location of your farm. From this, they are able to conduct preliminary surveillance of the layout of your buildings using Google maps.

Ensure family and staff do not tag or post personal information regarding farms and farm families. Do not broadcast vacations and time away from farms.

Analytics technology will pick up visitor views to websites and animal activist Facebook pages. Avoid driving up page/video views of activist content. Doing so increases the popularity and spread of the content. Put security before curiosity and stay away from activist sites/social media groups.

Managing a Protest

Call 911 if a situation is life threatening, dangerous or a crime is in progress.

It is LEGAL to protest on public property (sidewalks, shoulders of roads, etc.).

It is ILLEGAL to enter onto private property without the property owner’s permission.

  • Do not touch a protestor; inform them they are on private property and request they leave;
  • Protestors may try to stop vehicles from entering the property, allow police to deal with this;
  • Do not confront or engage with protestors in any way;
    • Especially do not antagonize protestors by screaming, threatening, or yelling. This provides protestors with an opportunity to videotape you saying or doing something negative. Always assume you are being recorded; and
    • The more attention protestors receive, the greater the chance they will return.

It may be helpful to have videotape of the protestors especially if they are threatening you, your vehicle or property. However, do not use your cell phone to videotape if you are behind the wheel of a vehicle. This could lead to a possible distracted driving charge. Some vehicles have mounted dash cams for this purpose.

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Do not engage on social media with activists; make things as boring as possible for them. They want and benefit from any attention whether positive or negative, it raises their profile.

When a Protest Occurs or is Expected to Occur

Always ensure safety is the top priority for you, your family and employees, and the protestors themselves. An accident or injury of any kind could cause significant legal problems and be used to justify activist campaigns.

If your farm is protested without warning, call the police and express your concern for your safety and the safety of your family. Be very clear you are not sure of the intent of the protest and you are fearful.

Be very clear when initially speaking to the protestors, advise them they are not welcome, if they enter your premises they will be trespassing, and that you have called the police. Ask them to not enter your barn or buildings. Do not engage with the protestors beyond that statement.

If there is advanced warning of the protest, review your trespasser and protest response plan with all those involved and contact the local police to inform them of the potential issue.

  • Have one person designated to work with the police. This will help the police know the point of contact and avoid confusion;
  • Review your property line with the police so everyone is clear and discuss a “no fly zone” for drones and no parking areas on roadways;
  • Designate one person (who is able to remain calm) to monitor the property line and nearby protestor activity if police are not present to do so;
  • Define your property boundary at the end of the laneway. Use marker paint or a rope to define property lines on the ground; and
  • Block laneways and entrances, where possible, with gates, chains, ropes, vehicles or farm equipment.

If you know how long the planned protest is expected to last, try to limit any activity on the site during that time; give them nothing to film and no one to interview.

If possible, limit traffic moving on and off the property, especially heavy machinery and trucks. This will help reduce the chances of needless, and potentially negative engagement.

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When to Call the Authorities

Protests are generally short term in nature, ranging from a few minutes to a few hours. The best strategy is to let them proceed with their protests as long as it is conducted in a lawful manner.

“Counter protests” by you or your neighbors are not productive and only increase the chances for recorded negative interaction and added publicity for the activists. Discourage all interactions with protestors other than the police.

If the farm is swarmed or rushed by an overwhelming number of protesters, follow the same procedures listed above to the best of your ability. If media arrives at the farm, do not be pressured into responding to questions or allowing access to your property. It is recommended that producers do not provide interviews or comments to reporters.


When to Call 911

If the situation is life threatening, dangerous or a crime is in progress (e.g. trespassers on site and will not leave, animals have been released etc.), this constitutes an emergency to law enforcement. Call 911 immediately, officers from the appropriate police service will be dispatched.


When to Call the Police Non-emergency Phone Number

If police are not urgently required, but a report still needs to be filed then the non-emergency number should be used. If it is not an emergency, DO NOT CALL 911.

If you reside in an OPP jurisdiction, call 1-888-310-1122 to connect with the Communication Centre 24/7. 


Examples of Non-emergency but Reportable Situations:

  • An attempt was made by someone to enter your property/buildings and there is evidence of the crime that could be collected;
  • You have identified a suspicious person through an email, phone call or farm visit;
  • Animal rights activists have indirectly threatened you/your livelihood (email, phone call or mailed letter); and
  • Animal rights activists have made it clear on social media they are targeting your business with plans for “direct action”.

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If possible, limit traffic moving on and off the property, especially heavy machinery and trucks. This will help reduce the chances of needless, and potentially negative, engagement.

Ensure all employees are aware of your policies relating to animal welfare and dealing with animal activists.

Activists Responding to Barn Fires or Other Emergencies

There are some additional considerations to guard against protests following a barn fire or other high-profile farm emergency, e.g. a disease outbreak. A recent trend sees activists using tragic farm events as a platform to bring attention to their anti-animal agriculture message.

  • Appoint one person to make any statements on behalf of the farm. Ask family members, friends and employees to direct all inquiries to this person;
  • Be clear with police, fire and government officials that you wish to keep your information private, including address, ownership and estimated losses. You have a say in protecting your privacy after a fire; and
  • Media inquiries: Reporters may call, reach out via social media, or show up on farm. Do not be pressured into giving a comment on the spot. Politely request their contact information and offer to have someone follow up.

Social media accounts or websites associated with a farm or farm family may be targeted by activists following a fire or emergency. Consider temporarily deactivating social media accounts, restricting access, or limiting comments on your sites. Social media sites will have detailed instructions on how to do this.

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Protest and Trespasser Response Procedure

 List to Call:

  • For emergency situations, call 911;
  • For non-emergency reports contact local police services;
  • Speak clearly and provide the location of the incident or emergency;
  • Describe the emergency (number of trespassers, protestors at road, intent of their presence, etc.);
  • Be very clear you are concerned for the safety of your farm, family, employees and animals;
  • Contact your board representative; and
  • Contact other people below as appropriate (owners, managers, employees, and neighbors)
    for additional assistance. (When completing form, indicate the relationship these people
    have to the farm.)


Steps or Activities That Should be Taken and, if Applicable, Who is Responsible:

  • Advise protestors or trespassers they are not welcome, ask them to leave or not enter the property, and inform them that police have been called;
  • Designate one person to work with police and monitor the property line until police arrive;
  • Block laneways and entrances where possible and define the property line at the end of the main laneway;
  • Limit traffic and farm activities while protestors or trespassers are present; and
  • Consider whether to temporarily deactivate farm and family members’ social media accounts. 


What SHOULD NOT be Done:

  • Do not speak with or touch protestors or trespassers beyond requesting they leave;
  • Do not threaten protestors or trespassers with harmful objects;
  • If the press should arrive at the scene, do not be rude but also do not make statements regarding the protestors or trespass situation. Be cordial but explain you are focused on the care of the animals. Ask them to respect the biosecurity and do not enter signs; and
  • Do not express your feelings regarding the protest on social media. 

These procedures are to be shared with all farm family members and employees. Annual review is recommended.

Replace this resourse with an updated version on an annual basis or more often as necessary.

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